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?

  • 4
    Is there a question hidden in here somewhere?
    – Tim
    Jan 28, 2018 at 7:55

1 Answer 1


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:

enter image description here

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:

enter image description here

Perhaps a clearer notation would be:

enter image description here

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.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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