I'm trying to learn about time signatures.

I'm pretty sure I've correctly identified the "colored" ones in the attached image, but cannot find any info on the web on the non-colored ones.

Could someone help with these please?

Edit: The image is not showing, so I'll try this way. (time sigs with no descriptions on right, I cannot categorize)

    1/1     1/2     1/4     1/8     1/16            
    2/1     2/2     2/4     2/8     2/16                Simple Duple    
            3/2     3/4     3/8     3/16                Simple Triple   
            4/2     4/4     4/8     4/16                Simple Quadruple    
                    5/4     5/8     5/16                Odd [3+2] or [2+3]
                    6/4     6/8     6/16                Compound Duple  
                    7/4     7/8     7/16                Odd [2+2+3] or [2+3+2] or [3+2+2]
                    8/4     8/8     8/16            
                    9/4     9/8     9/16                Compound Triple 
                    10/4        10/8        10/16           
                    11/4        11/8        11/16       Odd [3+3+3+2]
                    12/4        12/8        12/16       Compound Quadruple  
                            13/8                        Odd [3+3+3+2+2]
  • There aren't any colours here. Do you mean the time signatures you've put names to? In that case - what does 'Odd' mean?
    – Peter
    Oct 1 at 16:00
  • That is correct (the colored image would not attach) so the ones with names 'were' colored. Odd same as Irregular I believe.
    – mms
    Oct 1 at 16:07
  • If you’re trying to learn time signatures from the beginning, I would ignore /16 time signatures for now. They are so rare and when you understand the others you’ll understand the /16 also. Normally time signature learning focuses on 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 6/8, 9/8, and 12/8 only, because once you know those you can combine and compare to understand any time signature, even ones you haven’t listed. Oct 1 at 16:11
  • 1
    I think 'odd' and 'irregular' were invented by people who had difficulty counting in anything but 2s and 3s.
    – Peter
    Oct 1 at 16:20
  • Apart from names (some will be antiquated), how will the chart help you learn about time signatures?
    – Tim
    Oct 1 at 16:22

Some time signatures have been given names - you've identified them correctly so no problem. Others don't have specific names, but you can still use them when composing if the music goes that way. You haven't said why you need to know the names. Personally I've never bothered with the names since I stopped taking theory exams, and I thought them a waste of time even then.

The numerator defines the number of beats in the bar, the denominator defines the note-length used for each beat (you probably know all this). So 3/4 means 3 beats of quarter-notes (crotchets in English!) and is fairly common so was given a name. 13/8 means 13 notes of eighth-notes (quavers) but was rare so wasn't given a name.

Don't forget that the names are fairly old, and come from a time when even 5/4 was regarded as highly dangerous. Nowadays it's pretty normal.

  • It's not so much the names, but how they will be beamed. For example would 16 eighth notes (in 8/4 time) be beamed as 4 groups of 4 notes, or 2 groups of 8 notes?
    – mms
    Oct 1 at 16:39
  • 3
    The numerator doesn’t always tell you the number of beats in a bar. For example, 12/8 time has four beats per bar. Oct 1 at 17:59
  • @ToddWilcox True - I was being too simplistic. I have to say that outside a classroom I've never heard any of the 'official' names used.
    – Peter
    Oct 2 at 9:31

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