It's not an implied difference.
It's specified in the time signature.
You have to learn to read time signature. They are not self explanatory.
The tip off is in the top number. Basically, if it's a multiple of 3, and the bottom number is 8, then it's compound time and the beat is subdivided by three.
The problem with your example of eighth notes in 6/8 and 3/...
The answer to both questions is the same: it's understanding meter
Meter is the pattern of accented and unaccented beats. Both music and poetry have meter: RO-ses are RED has a pattern of one accent followed by two unaccented syllables; i WISH i KNEW how LONG has a pattern of one unaccented and one accented syllable.
In poetry there are lots of different ...
Y0u are quite correct that, shown just this, we have no way of telling whether 2+2+2 (3/4) or 3+3 (6/8) grouping is required.
And that is why we have time signatures!
The 3/4 time signature tells us it's 2+2+2.
And, to make it even clearer, we'd normally write it like this.
For 3+3 we use a 6/8 time signature and this grouping.
Let's assume your problem is not the differentiation of the six 8th-notes in a 3/4 time compared with the six 8th-notes in 6/8. (3/4 you count 1 a 2 a 3 a, 6/8 time you will count 1 2 3 4 5 6.
I think the question is how to differentiate a 6/8 from to bars of3/4, isn't it?
The problem is actually that it isn't always clear even to the composer to decide ...
However, other than people telling me this, I see no way that someone
would be able to know this just by looking at the music.
Of course! Musical notation is written language used by people in a culture. Did you learn to read text by looking at text, without actually speaking any language or meeting any speakers of any language?
It's about culture, ...
'I see no way that someone would be able to know this just by looking at the music.' The simple answer here is to look at the time signature.
3/4 and 6/8 look very different from each other! That's because they are! And playing your example would come out differently. The 6/8 tune would have an empahsis on the first note (like most music) but also on the ...
One difference with compound time signatures is that instead of counting beats, we count pulses.
In compound time signatures there are three pulses to a beat, whereas in simple time signature there are only two.
This is represented as a clear visual difference by the beaming; we connect the flags of the pulses into beams, and we do this according to the ...
4/2 is fine. Strictly speaking, it's 8/4 [4/4 + 4/4; or (4+4)/4].
I can't speak to Finale or Sibelius, but it's near trivial to do in MuseScore.
See also Dual time signature of Alla Breve x2 in Schubert?, which has an outstanding discussion of the history of this type of time signature.
It's worth noting that two modern (Internet) editions use 8/4 and 4/4 (...
I don't think the confusion is your basic understanding of meters and time signatures, but probably how you are counting aloud with syllables.
In simple time signatures - those that subdivide the beat by 2 - it's the note value that gets the beat. Ex...
4 (four beats per measure)
4 (quarter note gets the beat)
In compound time - those that subdivide the ...
After all, if it's only going to make a small difference in how I read
and no difference in how I play the song or count, then what's the
point of the bottom number?
The point is, you have to write SOMETHING there, or otherwise the top number doesn't mean ANYTHING.
It's about culture, conventions, tradition and language. Not natural science, laboratory ...
The other important information that the "denominator" of a time signature conveys is the beat in relation to other sections of the music. The meter of a piece does not have to remain constant, and as an example, it is possible to go from 4/4 to 3/8. In that case, the new time signature uses the eighth note as its beat for a triple meter, and the ...
I believe there are fundamentally 2 main reasons I can think of:
historically, the tempo was not strict as it has been considered in the last 2-3 centuries, and it was usually decided based on the time signature; so, for instance, 3/8 was considerably faster than 3/4, and that's usually true even for today's music: if the fraction has a larger denominator, ...