4

I am trying to understand the intuition behind the time signature. My confusion is as below :

  1. My first confusion was why in general every metronome beat is considered a quarter beat, but what I realized as I read more, is that usually it's a standard but it's not necessary. I mean it's usually mentioned, (for example) that the tempo is 60 bpm and each beat is a quarter/whole/half beat. Please correct me if I'm wrong here.

  2. Now coming to time signature, Let's say my music is in 4/4 and is 60bpm. That means every beat is a quarter note. From this I understand that my music is going to feel like it's structured in 4 beats or pulses at a time. The pulse is going to feel like 1-2-3-4, 1 having more accent.

  3. Now lets say my music is in 4/2 and is 60bpm. I am unable to understand what difference this change in beat value will bring in my rhythmic feel, because All I can think of, is that if I put that in a metronome, every tick is a half beat now; then there is no difference between what I was playing previously, (for example, 4/4 in point 2), and if I say that the metronome beat is still a quarter beat, then its just going to make my music sound slower.

Please help me in clearing this confusion. Thanks. :)

3
  • 1
    We can (and do) set the metronome to whatever we wish. It could be set to tick on every crotchet, quaver, minim at 60bpm. it could be set to tick on the 'off beat', or even once per bar. Or in triplet timee, so there's 12 ticks per bar in 4/4. – Tim May 20 at 8:17
  • Hi Tim, Yes Im aware of that but I was taking about the pulse when I said 4 ticks. Since its more about being equivalent to 4 quarter beats, there can be more ticks as well. But sorry, thats not actually what I meant to ask. Thanks for the answer :) – MusicMan May 20 at 8:22
  • 3
    Have you ever seen a metronome marking, for example "♩=60"? What would you guess, what might the quarter note symbol on the left side of the equals sign denote? What if the marking had a half note instead, how would its meaning change? How about an eight-note symbol, "♪=60", what might that mean? musicteachers.co.uk/ezone/file/music-theory/rhythm-and-tempo/… – piiperi Reinstate Monica May 20 at 8:39
1

Changing your time signature will change your tempo. Having a time signature of 4/4 at 120 BPM for 20 bars will give you a song 20 seconds long.

Having a time signature of 3/4 at 120 BPM for 20 bars will give you a song 15 seconds long.

Having a time signature of 2/4 at 120 BPM for 20 bars will give you a song 10 seconds long.

If there are less beats in a bar, (or measure) your bars (or measures) will go by much faster, because you must complete 120 beats in a minute.

If you want a song with a length of 1 minute that has a tempo of 120 and a time signature of 4/4, it will take 30 measures.

If you want a song with a length of 1 minute that has a tempo of 120 and a time signature of 3/4, it will take 40 measures.

Time signature is important to many things, especially the repetition of a certain measure(s). If I were making a song in 4/4 but all my rhythms restarted at the 3rd beat, (equivalent to 3/4)then it would be very hard to count the measures because having the song divided into measures would then be useless and unhelpful. having a time signature of 3/4 allows me to use quarter notes and 8th notes and still achieve my 3-note rhythm due to the time signature. A correct time signature will make dividing the song into measures useful again.

Another important reason behind time signatures, is the measure indication of a metronome. If you were playing a 3-note rhythm in 4/4, your metronome will indicate the start of the next measure at the wrong time. having a 3-note rhythm and a metronome set to 3/4 will make your metronome indicate the start of the next measure at the correct time.

9
  • Could you site your information for those numbers you ended up with? – Ginger May 20 at 19:09
  • cite my information on the numbers... my brain? – SupBruh May 20 at 19:10
  • 1
    If you would like to check my math you can use toolstud.io/music/… to calculate the length of you song. – SupBruh May 20 at 19:13
  • Add that into the answer, like, "you can use ___ to calculate tempo" or something. – Ginger May 20 at 19:13
  • 1
    @MusicMan 4/4 time signature is 4 beats per 4 measures. 4/2 time signature is 4 beats per 2 measures, making it twice as fast as 4/4. – SupBruh May 20 at 19:48

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.