# What is this time signature with only one number?

I have recently come across a time signature I've never seen before. It is in a Baroque piece of music. Each bar has a minim crotchet minim crotchet which I think should indicate 6/4 compound time, but there is only one number in the time signature: 3.

What is this time signature?

• Is there a question hidden in here somewhere?
– Tim
Jan 28, 2018 at 7:55

Time signatures occasionally do away with the bottom number. While I tend to see this more often in modern music, the tradition goes back centuries (in fact, to before time signatures were actually a thing).

If I understand your question correctly, you have this:

Which tells you that there are three "beats" in the measure, and it's up to you to determine the denominator of the key signature. The above measure is equivalent to:

Perhaps a clearer notation would be:

Although one measure of 6/4 has the same note durations as 3/2, 3/2 has three large beats in the measure instead of the two beats that 6/4 has. (It's just like the distinction between 6/8 and 3/4.)

Since you're given a numerator of 3 telling you there are three beats in a measure, this is 3/2.

• I have pondered the answer but am still a little in the dark. The tune is "Greensleeves to a Ground" so the 6/4 feel would be changed in 3/2 time. Jan 29, 2018 at 7:18
• @Colleen Hm, that is odd. Do you have a picture by any chance? Jan 29, 2018 at 11:10
• Jan 30, 2018 at 7:56