48

Go for a walk. Count each step, in twos or fours. Tread heavier on the ones. One two One two One two One two One two three four One two three four They feel different, don't they? This is the difference. And yet there is an equivalence between them. Walk at the same tempo, but count to four twice as fast, so you're stepping on the One and the three. One ...


45

I think the author of that Wikipedia page has rather misinterpreted Nancarrow's title page for the Study (linked on Roland Bouman's comment to the question). (1/√π)/√⅔ refers to a tempo ratio between two voices, not a time signature. Nancarrow was rather obsessed with canons. The canon is a form where multiple voices each play the same music at some time ...


35

Using only your ears, it's impossible to determine the exact time signature the composer would have used when writing the score. This is because there are many ways to write the same thing, all of which sound the same when played. For example, a piece written in 3/4 time can easily be re-written in 3/8 time by halving all the note values and playing it half ...


34

Yes, one possible way is to clarify a "5+3" meter throughout. Depending on the music, this could be preferable to just writing 8/4 if the meter is clearly a 5+3 layout. As one example of how this could be done, consider something like: Notice that, in the second full measure, a dotted barline shows the distinction between the 5/4 and 3/4 portions of the ...


29

Time signatures and bars are not there arbitrarily, nor just to help count your way through a piece. They are there to provide guidance on the rhythm of the piece. Where it is accented, where it breathes. Some composers do write pieces with no time signature or bars, as an indication that there should be no consistent rhythm. Eric Satie did this for several ...


29

Actually, in terms of fractions, 3/4 is the same as 6/8. But time signatures are not fractions. 3/4 means each bar has 3 notes of 1/4 each. 6/8 means each bar has 6 notes of 1/8 each. And yes, the difference is in the way you count it: In 3/4 you count 1,2,3 and in 6/8 you count up to 6 and the notes are shorter. The accents change as well; 6/8 is an even ...


29

It would be more accurate to say that cut time "will sound twice as fast as the same notes played in 4/4 at the same tempo". That's essentially what they're trying to get across. But even that wouldn't really be accurate. Cut time is a duple meter, 4/4 is a quadruple meter. The difference is subtle, but it's still a difference.


27

Time signatures look like fractions, but are not really. I grew up on crotchets and quavers, so I'll use those words, but the American/German number-names drop naturally out of the time signatures. 3/4 does not mean "3 divided by 4", it means 3 times 1/4, or 3 beats of a crotchet. So the piece is "in 3". In all traditional notation (Beethoven, Mozart, et ...


27

They add up fine. The first three notes you see, with the 3 underneath them are to be played on the count of one quarter. These are called triplets. The same for the second three notes and then the half note lasts for two quarters, all of which sum up to 4/4. Are to be played on the count of one quarter. The same as above. Lasts two quarters.


26

It basically comes down to how the way the notes/beats are emphasised affects how your ear hears how the beats are grouped. Listening to a piece in 5/4, you'll hear that the beats are audibly in groups of 5. Try counting '1-2-3-4-5' with the beats in these songs, and you'll find that your counting stays in sync with the rhythmic pattern in the song... ...


25

This free-thinking question has already provoked at least one thoughtful answer. The sample score happens to have time signatures, however, beginning with 4 bars of 4⁄4 and going into a bar of 2⁄4 before returning to 4⁄4 . They're just stretched beyond recognition. Squashed (unstretched): Close-in to unstretched 2⁄4 and 4&...


24

Start by finding the beat. Tap your finger for every beat, like a human metronome. Resist any urge to tap uneven rhythms; just the underlying constant pulse. Once you've got that, listen for the start of bars. There are various indicators that a bar is starting; an emphasis, a chord change, etc. Now count. "One" for the first beat, then counting upward, ...


23

The other answers are all essentially correct, but I think a critical point is missing. There aren't just fully "strong" and fully "weak" beats; there are also beats of medium strength (and other varieties). 4/4 is most commonly emphasized like this: ONE two three four Note the half-accent on the third beat, different from what slim mentioned. If you'...


23

They are actually eighth note triplets instead of eighth notes. The alternative notation to this would be to group the eighth notes and rests in threes and put a 3 over them like a standard triplet, but it's easy enough to see that you are fitting 12 equally spaced notes in a measure which end up being eighth note triplets which would kind of screw up the ...


22

The "C" after the clef in place of the time signature stands for "Common Time," and it is shorthand for 4/4 time. If you see a "C" with a vertical line through it, that stands for "Cut Time," and it is shorthand for 2/2 time.


22

A semibreve rest CAN be used in 6/8 time - or ANY time (apart from 4/2 - quite unusual)) to represent one bar's rest. At that point, it isn't actually a 'semibreve', but represents just one bar of that music. It's become a shorthand way of saying "one whole bar rest".


22

He's just showing off. There's a few major reasons why what he describes doesn't matter. First and foremost, sheet music is a guide. It's not actually the music. You are always expected to put your own experience into the notes before they get called music. Thus, you would never want to play an exact transcription of the black toner on the page. It ...


21

Technically speaking, you can't ever say for certain until you see the composer's original score (if there even is one); a piece could literally be written in an infinite number of time signatures. As such, we have to make these decisions based on a knowledge of prior practice and on what makes the most practical sense. So, let's look at this excerpt notated ...


20

There's no absolute rules as to when a composer should use one over the other - it often comes down to the tempo and feel of the music, but it is subjective. I've (for better or worse) seen Presto 3/4 pieces that go much faster than some 3/8 pieces. The big difference in terms of timing is that 3/8 is mainly used as a compound time, whereas 3/4 is most ...


20

Your understanding of the math, as it were, is correct. And I would say yes, a multiple of 4 bars of music in 3/4 can be expressed as music in 4/4 (in a multiple of 3 bars), but I would dispute that the same can necessarily be represented as such. The bar line placement of a piece of music has tremendous impact upon live musicians' interpretation of, not to ...


20

In Printed Music In typeset music, time signatures are usually not written with a line between the numerator and denominator (at least no more of a line than is already there). In Text However, when writing text about music, it is an acceptable convention to use a slash to separate the numerator and denominator. See A Style and Usage Guide to Writing ...


20

That sentence "Played twice as fast as written" indicates that someone must have a misunderstanding. Someone who probably thinks that quarter notes are supposed to be played at a certain speed. That person would need more knowledge and experience with both tempo markings and different kinds of time signatures. I suppose you could say that in the beginning ...


19

These two time signatures both indicate simple triple time (also known as waltz time). They are mainly used in the same genres: Formal dances such as waltzes, minuets, mazurka, and scherzi Country, R&B Western ballads sometimes pop All of these genres commonly use simple triple time i.e they have three beat per measure (usually with the first beat ...


19

The eighth notes in the left hand are all triplets. The ones in the right hand are normal. Note how the note heads line up vertically in measure 4. On a purely technical level, this is incorrect notation. But it's something that can be figured out pretty easily, so I guess Liszt either didn't care or wrote it like that for artistic reasons.


19

I'll give this another spin: Can music time signatures really be rational? Which I'd answer: no, not really. Rationality is a mathematical concept, depending on an exact, axiomatic notion of numbers. Now, sure, any ordinary piece of music will use a rational signature given by integer numbers on paper, or in the DAW you use. Time is conceptually divided ...


17

Normally, we're told that 5/4 is really 3/4 + 2/4 or 2/4 + 3/4. Well, I have to ask "told by who?" It is not the case that 5/4 has to be interpreted as either 3/4 + 2/4 or 2/4 + 3/4. It is perfectly valid to use groups of 5 crotchet beats as the overall rhythmic template of a piece of music, without having to have the same sub-groupings in different parts. ...


16

I'm quite used to it by now, my point being that at one point, you can sort of feel this rhythm patterns. However, when you start a new time signature, it's good to break the bar up in smaller pieces. For instance, you can count a 7/8 as 2 times 2 and 1 time 3. Just tap your foot on the 1 when counting in your head the following pattern: 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 3. ...


16

In the context of Baroque dance music or suites, then there are good reasons to use 3/8 in preference of 3/4 (or vice versa). In the days before metronomes, how the music was notated would be an indication of performance speed. The notation would also be specific to a particular dance. I have borrowed diagrams from Jan van Biezen, who has written ...


16

"Crotchet" is the British term for quarter note. A "Minim" is a half note and a "quaver" is an eighth note. 3/4 is a time signature. More specifically, it is simple, triple time. The top number in this time signature indicates that there are three beats in each measure. The bottom number (below the slash) means that one beat is defined as a quarter note, ...


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