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81

A time signature is simply the composer's way of telling you how s/he is subdividing the measure. So in 4/4 time, the composer imagines the measure divided into four beats, while in 8/8 time, the composer imagines the measure divided into eight beats. The difference is less in the strict timing and more in the feel or pulse of the music. Try counting ...


44

Go for a walk. Count each step, in twos or fours. Tread heavier on the ones. One two One two One two One two One two three four One two three four They feel different, don't they? This is the difference. And yet there is an equivalence between them. Walk at the same tempo, but count to four twice as fast, so you're stepping on the One and the three. One ...


31

I think the author of that Wikipedia page has rather misinterpreted Nancarrow's title page for the Study (linked on Roland Bouman's comment to the question). (1/√π)/√⅔ refers to a tempo ratio between two voices, not a time signature. Nancarrow was rather obsessed with canons. The canon is a form where multiple voices each play the same music at some time ...


26

Using only your ears, it's impossible to determine the exact time signature the composer would have used when writing the score. This is because there are many ways to write the same thing, all of which sound the same when played. For example, a piece written in 3/4 time can easily be re-written in 3/8 time by halving all the note values and playing it half ...


25

Time signatures and bars are not there arbitrarily, nor just to help count your way through a piece. They are there to provide guidance on the rhythm of the piece. Where it is accented, where it breathes. Some composers do write pieces with no time signature or bars, as an indication that there should be no consistent rhythm. Eric Satie did this for several ...


23

They are actually eighth note triplets instead of eighth notes. The alternative notation to this would be to group the eighth notes and rests in threes and put a 3 over them like a standard triplet, but it's easy enough to see that you are fitting 12 equally spaced notes in a measure which end up being eighth note triplets which would kind of screw up the ...


21

A semibreve rest CAN be used in 6/8 time - or ANY time (apart from 4/2 - quite unusual)) to represent one bar's rest. At that point, it isn't actually a 'semibreve', but represents just one bar of that music. It's become a shorthand way of saying "one whole bar rest".


20

Your understanding of the math, as it were, is correct. And I would say yes, a multiple of 4 bars of music in 3/4 can be expressed as music in 4/4 (in a multiple of 3 bars), but I would dispute that the same can necessarily be represented as such. The bar line placement of a piece of music has tremendous impact upon live musicians' interpretation of, not to ...


19

The eighth notes in the left hand are all triplets. The ones in the right hand are normal. Note how the note heads line up vertically in measure 4. On a purely technical level, this is incorrect notation. But it's something that can be figured out pretty easily, so I guess Liszt either didn't care or wrote it like that for artistic reasons.


18

The "C" after the clef in place of the time signature stands for "Common Time," and it is shorthand for 4/4 time. If you see a "C" with a vertical line through it, that stands for "Cut Time," and it is shorthand for 2/2 time.


18

In Printed Music In typeset music, time signatures are usually not written with a line between the numerator and denominator (at least no more of a line than is already there). In Text However, when writing text about music, it is an acceptable convention to use a slash to separate the numerator and denominator. See A Style and Usage Guide to Writing ...


17

The other answers are all essentially correct, but I think a critical point is missing. There aren't just fully "strong" and fully "weak" beats; there are also beats of medium strength (and other varieties). 4/4 is most commonly emphasized like this: ONE two three four Note the half-accent on the third beat, different from what slim mentioned. If ...


17

There's no absolute rules as to when a composer should use one over the other - it often comes down to the tempo and feel of the music, but it is subjective. I've (for better or worse) seen Presto 3/4 pieces that go much faster than some 3/8 pieces. The big difference in terms of timing is that 3/8 is mainly used as a compound time, whereas 3/4 is most ...


17

Normally, we're told that 5/4 is really 3/4 + 2/4 or 2/4 + 3/4. Well, I have to ask "told by who?" It is not the case that 5/4 has to be interpreted as either 3/4 + 2/4 or 2/4 + 3/4. It is perfectly valid to use groups of 5 crotchet beats as the overall rhythmic template of a piece of music, without having to have the same sub-groupings in different parts. ...


16

I recommend listening to Dave Brubeck's Time Out. That whole record is an exploration of odd time signatures and unusual ways of subdividing rhythms, but in a way that still swings. Three of the more famous tracks, for example, are: "Blue Rondo a la Turk": This is in 9/8, which is an old time signature dating back to the Baroque period, used when a ...


16

"Crotchet" is the British term for quarter note. A "Minim" is a half note and a "quaver" is an eighth note. 3/4 is a time signature. More specifically, it is simple, triple time. The top number in this time signature indicates that there are three beats in each measure. The bottom number (below the slash) means that one beat is defined as a quarter note, ...


16

A semibreve rest is the symbol to be used for "whole-bar rest", regardless of the meter. A whole-bar rest is also distinguished by being written in the middle of the bar rather than being aligned with beat 1 in other staves or voices. This exalted central bar position is otherwise only used by "bourdon" notes carrying multiple syllables in free meter, like ...


15

I'm quite used to it by now, my point being that at one point, you can sort of feel this rhythm patterns. However, when you start a new time signature, it's good to break the bar up in smaller pieces. For instance, you can count a 7/8 as 2 times 2 and 1 time 3. Just tap your foot on the 1 when counting in your head the following pattern: 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 3. ...


14

These two time signatures both indicate simple triple time (also known as waltz time). They are mainly used in the same genres: Formal dances such as waltzes, minuets, mazurka, and scherzi Country, R&B Western ballads sometimes pop All of these genres commonly use simple triple time i.e they have three beat per measure (usually with the first beat ...


14

Start by finding the beat. Tap your finger for every beat, like a human metronome. Resist any urge to tap uneven rhythms; just the underlying constant pulse. Once you've got that, listen for the start of bars. There are various indicators that a bar is starting; an emphasis, a chord change, etc. Now count. "One" for the first beat, then counting upward, ...


14

Actually, in terms of fractions, 3/4 is the same as 6/8. But time signatures are not fractions. 3/4 means each bar has 3 notes of 1/4 each. 6/8 means each bar has 6 notes of 1/8 each. And yes, the difference is in the way you count it: In 3/4 you count 1,2,3 and in 6/8 you count up to 6 and the notes are shorter. The accents change as well; 6/8 is an even ...


14

Time signatures look like fractions, but are not really. I grew up on crotchets and quavers, so I'll use those words, but the American/German number-names drop naturally out of the time signatures. 3/4 does not mean "3 divided by 4", it means 3 times 1/4, or 3 beats of a crotchet. So the piece is "in 3". In all traditional notation (Beethoven, Mozart, et ...


14

Technically speaking, you can't ever say for certain until you see the original score (if there even is one) as determined by the composer; a piece could literally be written in an infinite number of time signatures. As such, we have to make these decisions based on a knowledge of prior practice and on what makes the most practical sense. So, let's look at ...


13

These numbers are time signatures. In brief, they tell you how many beats are in a measure. (This answer might not work as well for people not familiar with music that doesn't have a strong rhythmic component.) To start this off, think of a waltz. You might count it out like this: One two three one two three (and so on). That's 3/4 time; each measure is ...


13

This will just be an embellishment of @user15077’s answer. This is the beginning of your piece as you’ve notated it: Here is what it would look like with a more standard approach: As you can see, many of the notes are expressed as tied notes now. For example, the quarter-note D-sharp in the first measure is written as a sixteenth tied to a dotted ...


12

For the most part, the time signature indicates what kind of feel the beat of the piece has. Consider waltzes, usually written in 3/4 – the beat goes ONE two three, ONE two three, ONE two three. Although you could write it as ONE two three, FOUR five six, ONE two three, FOUR five six with a time signature of 6/4, there's no point because the beat still ...


12

After a quick listen I see no reason not to just use 4/4. The beat is definitely even, so whatever time signature you go with you should stick with or at least similar times (e.g., 2/2). You certainly shouldn't be switching signatures almost every measure. It's hard to say where you went wrong here, especially since you didn't describe your method, but ...


12

How about 2/2 (alla breve)? This also goes in two, but the pulse is a half-note so you can write your 32nds as 16ths, which should be readable. Nowadays alla breve is also usually associated with a quick tempo so to an experienced musician it should look right.


12

Whilst even time-sigs are far more common that odd ones, once the 'feel' of a tune is running, most people will go with the flow. Even when there is a change of time in the middle of a line, most people don't spot it. Having sung/played 'The 12 Days of Christmas' (topical !) for many years, it took me by surprise when I looked at the music; the time changed ...



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