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 ??

  • 1
    This particular example is weird. Where does it come from?
    – Édouard
    Feb 1, 2014 at 12:04
  • @Édouard its a drum score Feb 1, 2014 at 15:56
  • 2
    Good edit, Luke - if the OP knew about time signatures and tempi, the question wouldn't have been posed...
    – Tim
    Feb 1, 2014 at 16:05
  • 1
    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.
    – user1044
    Feb 11, 2014 at 17:03

6 Answers 6


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.

  • 3
    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... Feb 1, 2014 at 15:22
  • 1
    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, 2014 at 16:49
  • 1
    The tempo mark says that quarter notes are at 107 bpm, so wouldn't that be 3 clicks per bar, not 2?
    – Ben Miller
    Feb 3, 2014 at 14:00
  • 3
    An extra thought - the crotchet in the tempo sign should be a dotted crotchet. Then it would make sense !
    – Tim
    Feb 3, 2014 at 14:41
  • 1
    @Tim: Not necessarily. 6/8 does not always have to be counted as 2 beats per measure (although this is most common). It can be counted as 3 beats per measure, in which case the tempo notation would be correct. How it is counted is depending on what is most natural in the beat of the music. That said, it may be that the notation in this example is wrong, and that it should have been a dotted crotchet, but we really can't tell for sure without knowing more about this specific music.
    – awe
    Sep 2, 2016 at 9:40

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.

  • 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, 2014 at 12:05
  • I edited my post Feb 1, 2014 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, 2014 at 9:46

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.

  • what do you mean by "get the beat" ?? Feb 3, 2014 at 23:28
  • 1
    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, 2014 at 13:03
  • 1
    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, 2014 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, 2014 at 9:37
  • @Tim: It can also be 3 beats as 12,34,56. Although this is not very common, I have seen examples of this in orchestra music.
    – awe
    Sep 2, 2016 at 9:52

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.


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


The 107 on top of the score is the tempo or as it is referred to, beats per minute (BPM). The BPM is relatively known as the speed at which the song goes at.

The second set of numbers (6/8) is known as the time signature or the meter signature or the measure signature. There are 4 main types of time signatures. Simple (4/4) compound (9/8, 12/8) complex (5/4) mixed (13/16 & 4/4 or 5/8 & 3/8 ) and additive (3+2+3/8), it shows you at which how many beats are in each bar over what note gets the beat or the value of tones. So say if the time signature was of a common bottom value; the most common bottom values include 4, 8, 16, 32. so a good example would be anything from 4/4 or 2/4

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