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At the start of a guitar or drum score , there are always these 2 numbers which I don't understand

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What do the 2 numbers circled in red mean ??

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This particular example is weird. Where does it come from? –  Édouard Feb 1 at 12:04
@Édouard its a drum score –  Computernerd Feb 1 at 15:56
Good edit, Luke - if the OP knew about time signatures and tempi, the question wouldn't have been posed... –  Tim Feb 1 at 16:05
They mean that the tempo is 107 beats per minute, and the time signature is 6/8. However, there is an obvious error in your example. It shows in the metronome mark that a quarter note equals 107 beats per minute. It should say that a dotted quarter note equals 107 beats per minute, as this would be in keeping with the time signature. –  Wheat Williams Feb 11 at 17:03

5 Answers 5

The 107 defines the tempo(speed) of the song. If you see a metronome, you'll see that you can determine the speed. The speed of the specific song is 107 bpm (beats per minute). Also, you can see that the duration of the note is a quarter. That means that if you set your metronome at 107 bpm, every tic would be a quarter. So, the correct name for this would be '107 crotchet (or quarter) per minutes'

The 6/8 is the time signature of the song. It determines how many beats are in each bar and which note value constitutes one beat.

These don't just appear at the start of a guitar or drum score; they appear at the beginning of every score/song/exercise/whatever.

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I would add that the proper term for “speed” is tempo, so that it allows people wondering the same questions now where to look further. In this particular case, the tempo says 107 crotchet (or quarter) per minutes, which is extremely weird with a 6/8 signature (where the beat is a quaver (eight), usually grouped by three). –  Édouard Feb 1 at 12:05
I edited my post –  Shevliaskovic Feb 1 at 13:18
@Shev, -in simple time the bottom number tells what value a beat has, but in compound time (6/8), the beat is defined as a set of triplets, so in this example there are two beats. You intimated in your answer that since the beat is quaver, there would be six beats. –  Tim Feb 2 at 9:46

I'm guessing this is from guitar tab, with 6 lines. The 6/8 really means 2 beats per bar, made up with 3 triplet quavers (1/8 notes). This will give each bar only 2 beats, despite numbers like 6 and 8.The tempo mark found above tells how many b.p.m. (beats per minute) the tune should be played at, In this case, 107. A metronome can be set to this, and every two clicks will represent a full bar.

This information is very basic, and could have been found with a few second's looking on thousands of websites.

Guitar tab will rarely have the time signature, so maybe this is drum music. The time sig. will always be present on staves with 'proper' music.

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Uhm, all decent guitar tabs do have time signature (well, if it's a tab+standard notation usually the time signature is on the "regular" staff), it is quite essential to get the feel of the song... –  Matteo Italia Feb 1 at 15:22
Agreed, when there's a proper stave, it's found there.Yes, it should be on ordinary tab, alone.However, for a long time now, I've felt that since 4/4 is so common (!) it becomes the default, so doesn't need saying. Anything else would need to be stated. –  Tim Feb 1 at 15:55
Well, I'm amazed. At the beginning of the tabs I've just spent 30 mins looking at, there's TAB, sometimes, EADGBE or other tuning, but could I find time sigs ? No ! –  Tim Feb 1 at 16:49
Well, then I guess I'm too used to "standard notation+tab" scores that I don't remember how "regular bare tabs" look like (although tabs written by myself or by my teacher always have the time signature). –  Matteo Italia Feb 1 at 17:08
An extra thought - the crotchet in the tempo sign should be a dotted crotchet. Then it would make sense ! –  Tim Feb 3 at 14:41

Here's a way for you to know how to understand time signatures. The folks above have done a fine job explaining this, but you should know how to read all time signatures and what these things really mean.

The first number above, the '107' is the beats per minute. This refers to the tempo, if you play with a metronome, you should set it at that value in order to play it at the speed that the composer intended it to be played at.

The other 2 numbers that are on top of each other refers to the time signatures. (6/8) the note on top refers to the number of beats per measure and the number below refers to which note value gets the beat.

So in the case of 6/8, there are 6 beats per measure where the 8th note gets the beat. If your time signature is 3/4 you have 3 beats per measure and the quarter note gets the beat.

If you have 4/4, you have 4 beats per measure and again the quarter note gets the beat and so forth.

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what do you mean by "get the beat" ?? –  Computernerd Feb 3 at 23:28
That's a good a question, do pardon any lack of clarity in my response. Here's how I will explain it: Listen to a waltz, a song that is in 3/4 time, an example: The Hollies - "Heading For a Fall" the song has 3 beats per measure and the beats are measured in quarter notes. So the rhythm is [One, two, three][One, two, three] and so on. The count of One, Two, Three are quarter notes. The beat is measured in quarter notes. Listen to a song that has a 4/4 time signature such as The Beatles - "Love Me Do", this songs rhythm is [One,Two,Three,Four] there are 4 beats per measure, measured with –  MrTheBard Feb 4 at 13:03
notes. The best way to explain 'gets the beat' is essentially that value of the note by which the time signature and rhythm are measured. So again to recap, the top number is the number of beats per measure and the bottom note (the one that gets the beat) is the value of the notes in the measure that set the beat. –  MrTheBard Feb 4 at 13:06
@MrTheBard- that's true and works well for simple time. This, though, is compound time. Meaning there are two ways to count it. 123,456 short beats per bar, or 1,2 longer beats (coming on '1' and '4' of the former). So maybe 'gets the beat' could be confusing as 6/8 is often counted, beat wise, as 2 beats in the bar, by conductors and musos alike. –  Tim Feb 6 at 9:37

The bottom number in the fraction is unit for counting the "tics". The top number indicates that there are 6 tics (or 8th notes) in one measure.

To set the speed. The top indication tells you that there are 107 quarter notes (or 214 8th notes) per minutes. This serves to set your drum computer or metronome.

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plain 'gets the beat' is essentially that value of the note by which the time signature and rhythm are measured. So again to recap, the top number is the number of beats per measure and the bottom note (the one that gets the beat) is the value of the notes

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