# How do you figure out time signatures?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Travisx2112, Oct 7, 2008.

1. ### Travisx2112

How does one go about going "oh, okay, <insert song here> is in 4/4 and then they switch to 3/4 here and then they...." so on and so forth? I know that one measure is "1 2 3 4", and then the measure stars again on every 1, so "One, two three four, One two three four...". where every 1 is the main beat? What is 4/4? Is it 1 2 3 4 four times? If it is, how does, for example, 3/4, or 6/8 etc work? And also as a side question, with all of this in mind, how do you use a metronome to have a basic rhythmic structure?

2. ### jordie65

Jan 7, 2007
Melbourne, Australia
alot of questions! 4/4 broken down means that the bar is broken into 4 quarters (the bottom 4) and there are 4 of this division in the bar (top 4) so there a 4 quarter notes in the bar, crotchets. 3/4 means there are 3 quarter notes! you apply this to the compound times you have to get the idea. as for listening and hearing the time sig 4/4 in most contemporary music you will feel a strong down beat on the 1 and 3. when you listen they will jump out at you as stronger. when you think you have the time sig worked out count along! if you get it wrong, for example you indentify a 3/4 song as 4/4 you will find the down beat coming in a beat later every time. hope this helped
Jordie

3. ### Travisx2112

Wow, this is more confusing than I thought! What's a bar? Why do you have a top and bottom on a bar? I think that Map of the Problematique by Muse is in 4/4 right? because the kick goes kick two three four kick two three four...

4. ### jordie65

Jan 7, 2007
Melbourne, Australia
ok well in map of the problematique it is 4/4. a bar is in this case 4 beats. bars just break a big slab of music down into smaller sections. a bar length is dictated by the time signature. in 3/4 the bar contains 3 beats. in 4/4 the bar contains 4 beats. using a crazy example a song in 16/4 would have 16 beats! is this making sense? oh and the top and the bottom is the time signature at the start of the music (if you are reading notation) it looks like...this..

4
4

so you see what i meant when i said the top 4 and bottom 4?

5. ### insomniac2295

Dec 12, 2007
Minneapolis, MN
Don't worry, that was hands down the most confusing description I've ever heard about time sigs.

6. ### jordie65

Jan 7, 2007
Melbourne, Australia
haha i have to agree with that insomniac! its how it got explained to me years ago and got me through but yep...the vid does a much better job than i!

7. ### Travisx2112

Okay that makes more sense, but how do you have umm...how do I ask this? Okay...umm...4/4 is as ive said 1234, so 3/4 is 123 123 123 123? Would that make for example, 6/8 "1 2 3 4 5 6" eight times? (where does the beat start with that?? On the 1? The one AND the three?)

8. ### jordie65

Jan 7, 2007
Melbourne, Australia
6/8 if you are counting like that would be 1 2 3 4 5 6. if listening to that generally you will hear the down beats on 1 and 4

9. ### funkydanbass

Sep 6, 2007
Melbourne, Australia.
There is always a relationship between the time. Usually a subdivsion will be consistent between the time change too. Ie. 16th or 8th notes can become triplets in compound time.

10. ### insomniac2295

Dec 12, 2007
Minneapolis, MN
one way that i'd count time signatures when i was in high school band was say your counting in 6/8. id count 123456, 223456 323456 423456 and so on. the first number dictates which measure your on so its easier to keep track of how long you've been playing or not playing in that time sig.

11. ### Travisx2112

Oh my god, I have never been so confused. What's a quarter note? is it the 2, 3 and 4 notes in a 4/4 signature? What would be an example of 6/8 from...Rush, Led Zep, Muse, Shakira, Yes, (just to name a few bands, which I have all studio songs from)?

12. ### Zombbg4

Jul 15, 2008
Olympia,Wa
Yea, top number represents how many beats per measure (bar) anthe bottom is what type of note gets 1 beat. 4/4 a quarter gets a beat and there 4 per measure. In 6/8 an 8th note gets a beat an there are 6 beats a measure. A lot of irish songs are in 6/8, you count it ONE two three FOUR five six putting emphasis on the 1st and 4th beat. By doin that you get a '2' feel. 3/4, just count to 3. 9/8, count to nine but like 6/8 emphasize every 3 beats, so you feel it in 3. Same goes for 12/8 and you feel it in 4, like a slow blues for example.

A bar is how ever many beats the top number time signature has. 4/4, 4 beats is a bar. Theop and bottom is not the bar, its the time signature (4/4, 3/4 ect). Hope this helps man, i know its confusing at first.

13. ### insomniac2295

Dec 12, 2007
Minneapolis, MN
hah, sorry. a quarter note is the 1234 in the 4/4. cut that in half, and you have eight notes. 12345678. it can still be fit in 4/4 because essentially, your playing 1234 but playing each beat twice in the same spot.... get it???

14. ### wb20

Sep 9, 2008
Asheville NC
I'm just starting out too, and also confused as hell about this. I've apparently had an ear for music for years and can tell you if something has a "weird" time, but as a math / engineering / computer guy, have been baffled by musicians' explanations.

My wife was a trombone & low-brass major briefly in college and plays keyboards too, and hasn't been able to beat it into my head.

If I'm finally "getting it" I think the missing piece is a pause or null note. So for 3/4 you are 1 - 2 - 3 - nothing - 1 - 2- 3 - nothing. Is that correct?

15. ### Travisx2112

Yeah I was going to ask this too. Do you just pay attention to the kick drum when trying to figure out a time signature? Because obviously if you are playing a song, you'll throw in a snare, cymbals and it gets a lot more confusing then!

16. ### Zombbg4

Jul 15, 2008
Olympia,Wa
in 3/4 the flow together without pause, theres just no 4th not. 123- 123- would be 4/4 with quarter rest on beat 4 of each bar

17. ### funkydanbass

Sep 6, 2007
Melbourne, Australia.
Time is not dictated by any one instrument. You have to identify the pulse and count the beats inbetween each pulse. Beats can include silence.

3/4 - can be counted in many ways... could be [1 & 2 & 3 &]

If you are feeling 1 2 3 nothing 1 2 3 nothing ... It's probably 4/4...

Probably would recommend getting a teacher as well!

18. ### Travisx2112

http://blog.pandora.com/archives/podcast/2007/09/meters_time_sig.html

I was looking at this site, the guy here says that Radiohead's "Everything in its Right Place" is in 10/4 (which is two normal bars and one half bar, 8+2 = 10) and im listening to that song right now, listening going "one two three four, one two, one two three four, one two etc.) right?

19. ### Travisx2112

Is Intro/Apocalypse Please by muse in...uhhh...5/4? One two three four five, One two three four five? or is it 10/4, like Everything in its right place by Radiohead, or is it just in 4/4?

20. ### Zombbg4

Jul 15, 2008
Olympia,Wa
you actually count it 12345678910, hence the 10/4 time sig.