Time Signatures

Lets take another look at this picture:

The time signature indicated here is 4/4.

But what does this mean?

The top number indicates the amount of beats in a measure

(and all subsequent measures afterwards, unless a new time signature is written.)

The bottom number indicates the value of the beat referred to above

(and all subsequent measures afterwards, unless a new time signature is written.)

Bottom Number Values

Measure Lines

=   quarter notes

=   eighth notes

=   sixteenth notes

If you’ve never seen these note symbols before and don’t understand there meaning, go to the next page to see the different note values. Understanding time signatures and note durations are important to learn together, since they put each other into context.   

As long as we have 4 beats of quarter notes, we’re fine.

We can have 4 quarter notes,

or we can have 1 half and 2 quarter notes,

or 2 eighth notes, 1 quarter, 2 eighths and another quarter.

Examples of some common and uncommon time signatures;

(Excerpt from Inventio 1, Bach)

(Excerpt from Inventio 4, Bach)

(Excerpt from Waltz in B Minor, Op. 69 #2, Chopin)

(Excerpt from a lead sheet of Take Five, Dave Brubek Quartet)

Rhythmic ValuesRhythmic_Values.html
Staff InfoStaff_Information.html
1. The Staff and ClefsThe_Staff_and_Clefs.html
2. The Grand StaffThe_Grand_Staff.html
3. Staff InformationStaff_Information.html
5. Rhythmic ValuesRhythmic_Values.html
6. Dotted NotesDotted_Notes.html
7. TiesTies.html
8. Key SignaturesKey_Signatures.html