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"Time Signatures Set The Groove!"

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Time signatures certainly do determine the pulse of the music you are playing or listening to. If the Chopin's Minute Waltz had the same time signature as Blue Rondo A La Turk, it wouldn't be a waltz anymore (just try dancin' that "three-step" to that Dave Brubeck masterpiece!)

There are three types in music:

* Simple

* Compound

* Complex

This tutorial focuses on the the first, the simple. Therefore, everything we discuss here applies to this category.

It tells us a couple of basic, yet important, things about the music we are playing:

A) It tells us how many beats are included in each measure of a song

B) It tells us what note value represents one beat in the song

In music, this symbol can be found at the very beginning (after the key signature, if sharps or flats are present):

Time Signatures | 4/4

The top number tells us how many beats are included in each measure of our song; therefore, a 4 means we are to count 4 beats per measure, a 2 means 2 beats per measure, 3 is 3 beats, etc. That's easy enough, yes? Great... now that bottom number tells us which note value receives one beat.

In our lessons on note values you will notice that, when discussing each one (quarter note, half note, etc.), I repeatedly have referred to these notes as "typically" getting a certain number of beats. For example, if you were at the quarter note tutorial, I say "a quarter note typically gets one beat." The reason I say "typically" is because this is usually the case - but not always...

If that bottom number is a 4 (most of the time it is), that 4 refers to a quarter note - easy to understand if you simply think of that 4 as the denominator (bottom number) of a fraction (as in 1/4)

So, a quarter being worth one beat, a half note is worth two, a whole note is worth four, etc.

So far so good?

Okay... now, what if that bottom number is not a 4? Instead, let's say it's a 2. Is this possible? Yes, of course! Though less common, it's absolutely something used often enough. Referring back to Item B above, that 2 means what?

That's right - a half note gets one beat! Now, this is not the "typical" situation we were referring to earlier. But don't fret... because, although we've changed the value of a half note in this case, all the other note values take on a value that is proportionate to that half note.

In other words, a quarter note is worth half of a half note - always. Therefore, if a half note gets 1 beat, then a quarter note will get half a beat. And, yes, all the other note values have values proportionate as well. It's just simple math.

Here's such an example:

Time Signatures | 4/2

Although there are many different time signatures that you will discover, which is the most common of them all?

The most common is 4/4. That is why it is very often referred to as "common time" and replaced with this symbol:

(Just think "C" for "common time") ...

So, when you see either of these two, you now know they both mean the same.

Here are the most common signatures, within the category of simple time signatures that you are likely to discover on your musical journey:

4/4, 2/4, 3/4, 2/2, 4/2, 3/8

See that last one? The bottom number is an 8. What does this tell you, considering Item B above?

If you said that an eighth note gets one beat, then you are right!

Remember, when it comes to simple time signatures, the top number tells us how many beats are in each measure of the piece we are playing - the bottom number always tells us which note value gets one beat:

4/4 - four beats per measure, quarter note gets one beat

2/4 - two beats per measure, quarter note gets one beat

3/4 - three beats per measure, quarter note gets one beat

2/2 - two beats per measure, half note gets one beat

4/2 - four beats per measure, half note gets one beat

3/8 - three beats per measure, eighth note gets one beat

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