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Basically new to music notation; confused about #/# signs.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Progressive, Jan 26, 2006.

  1. Hello! I recently started reading musical notational theory, and I know what exactly things say, but I am unsure what people mean by time signatures, for example, 4/4 time, or common time. I know that the top number denotes there are 4 beats per measure, but I have read many different definitions of what the bottom number, in this case 4, actually means. Most people say the bottom number tells you which kind of note gets "the" beat. Each beat is seperate, but it sounds like every beat gets several beats, to me!

    I don't truly understand this properly. ;\ Help? =P


    Example: The notes circled in red, here, are both sixteenth notes, but they have different amounts of ... bars attaching them. Does this alter their length?
  2. What I'm confused about, fundamentaly, is: what exactly defines a "beat"? People say that a beat is each note you hear, but there is more heard than each beat.

    *Brain explodes*?
  3. The note that "gets the beat" is the one that all the other notes are defined relative to. The tempo tells you the number of beats per minute (bpm), and the time signature tells you which note value that is.
  4. Herman


    Dec 25, 2005
    Lynchburg, VA
    No, like you said, they're both (actually all) 16th notes so their length is the same (assuming the song's tempo is unchanged). Your first circle is around two 16th notes; the second one around 4 - the bar is longer under the second set simply because there are 4 notes instead of 2.

    Also, the 4 16th notes in your example account for 1 beat in that measure since your in 4/4 time - i.e. 4/4 means "4 beats to the measure (the top 4), and a quarter note gets one beat (the bottom 4)." If a quarter note is 1 beat then an 8th note is half a beat, and a 16th note is 1 quarter of a beat. When you string 4 16th notes together, you've accounted for 1 beat in the measure.
  5. Notes are connected by beams just to make reading easier. That has nothing to do with beats. Like Herman said, four 16th notes make up a quarter note, and the quarter note gets the beat in your example, so four 16ths do equal a beat in this instance, but that has nothing to do with what each note is beamed to.
  6. ToR-Tu-Ra


    Oct 15, 2005
    Mexico City
    Quite a piece to begin reading standard notation with! I'd start off with something simpler, but that's just me, maybe it's because I'm lazy.
  7. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    The BEAT may be subdivided into 'smaller "beats"'(1/8th notes, 1/16th notes, triplets, etc). IMO, to truly understand 'time', you must internalize these subdivisions.
    Think of an uncut pie = the Beat. The pie can then be cut in halves(1/8th notes), into quarters(1/16th notes), into thirds(triplets), smaller thirds(1/8th note triplets), even smaller thirds(1/16th note triplets), etc...or any combination.
    And don't forget-
    The RESTS(silence) are integral & EQUAL to the 'time' continuum. ;)

    Bar 2(Beats 3 & 4), IMO, is an example of 'how not to notate/transcribe'.
    IMO, the 1/16th notes at Beat 3 should be TIED to that 1/4 note(becomes an 1/8th note) which should then be TIED to another 1/8th note connected to the last two 1/16th notes of Beat 4. Easier on the eyes, IMO.
    Still, played/counted the same-
  8. johnvice


    Sep 7, 2004
    First, congratulations on your decsision to learn to read music. I don't know how many gigs I've beaten out better players on becuase I can read music.

    4/4 is a bad example becuase there is confusion between the numbers. Let's use 3/4. Think of a Waltz by Strauss (One, two, three, One two three....)
    That explains the top number as each bar has three beats per measure.

    The bottom number is how the top number is notated. If it's 3/4 then each beat is a quarter note. It COULD be notated in 3/8 (each beat being an eighth note).

    My point is the bottom number is based on the PERCEPTION of the transcriber and the CLARITY of what the transcriber is trying to convey.

    In your illustration, notice that the groupings are by note duration. There are 8th notes grouped together and 16th notes grouped together. This makes it easy to count them out.
  9. johnvice


    Sep 7, 2004
    Put on some music and tap your foot. As the GoGos would say "You got the beat"

    Next turn on your metronome. This produces a pulse. You can play 3/4, 6/8, or any time signtaure to that pulse by emphasing the first beat. (I.e ONE, two, three OR One, two, three, four.) It's all the same to the metronome's pulse.
  10. Thank you for the insight. Recently, I have been studying Ravel's Bolero, which is 3/4, as my piece to start my learning notation properly. It's simply the repeated measures, over and over, and it's fairly simple for me. =P
  11. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    agreed, it'd be clearer to show it like this:


    you can occasionally use a quarter note across a beat but it's only really advisable to use it for the real simple stuff./. e.g.


    is probably a little bit easier to read on the fly than:


    sometimes you'll see a bar that does both at once...


    which I would rather see than:


    a general rule is to always tie across the center of a 4/4 bar... otherwise it can get unreadable quickly
  12. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I agree...thanks for the pix.