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Time signatures?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by count_funkula, May 4, 2001.

  1. I have asked this before but never understood the answer so here goes again.

    What does the bottom number represent in a time signature?
    I understand how to count everything with a 4 on the bottom but what about 6/8?
  2. Good Call dude, i would like to know as well...

  3. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    The top number, as you probably already know, indicates how many beats per measure. The bottom number refers to what note gets the beat. For example, in 3/4 time, the quarter note gets the beat, and there are 3 beats per measure.

    In 6/8 time, the eighth note gets the beat.
  4. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Top number, the number of beats in a measure. Bottom number, the type of note that gets 1 beat.

  5. To add confusion: the note doesn't always "get the beat". For exemple, in 6/8, the eight notes are usually grouped by three and there are two beats per measure. It would sound like triplets of eight notes in a 2/4 measure.

    To be more accurate you'd have to say that the top number tells how many of the said note (bottom number) there are in a measure.

    How you count the measure (beat) is up to the composer. Say you have 9/8, you can group the eight notes by three and have 3 beats per measure or group them 3-2-2-2 and have 4 beats, though the first is longer than the others.

    A side note: on older music scores, instead of putting a number at the bottom, you'd have the actual note symbol.
  6. Thanks for your replies but it still makes no sense to me.

    I have a drum machine and I can set the time signature of the click track 6/8, 3/4, 4/4, or whatever but I still don't understand how the bottom number is affecting the beat.

    When set to 6/4 it plays 6 beats per measure with the loud click on beat 1. If I set it to 6/8 it plays 6 beats per measure with the loud click on beat 1 and 4.

    What does beats 1 and 4 have to do with the 8?

  7. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    That's the way you usually play 6/8: ONE two three FOUR five six. 3/4 is mathematically the same but is played in the feel of ONE two three ONE two three. Uh... I guess that just confuses you even more. Wait, give me a minute, I'll make a couple of MIDI files...

    EDIT: Made two short MIDIs (played at the same tempo). I do hope I got it somewhat right.

    <A HREF="http://www.mdstud.chalmers.se/~md0per/three_four.mid">3/4 example</A>
    <A HREF="http://www.mdstud.chalmers.se/~md0per/six_eights.mid">6/8 example</A>
  8. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Oysterman's post is right on-
    In 6/8, "1" & "4" are the pulse; in 4/4, "1'" & "3" are the pulse.
    Practice tapping out the 6/8 clave, using both of your hands...

    Again, the pulse is on "1" & "4"(the bold numbers)in both bars; the clave is the underlined numbers.
    So, in short, the clave is on /1-3-5-6/2-4-6/ and the pulse is on /1-4/1-4/
    BOTH hands "tap" together on bar's 1 "1".

    What gets "cool" is when 6/8 is played over 4/4.


    So, the "pattern" takes 3 bars to start over...right?
  9. Thanks for the MIDI files Oysterman but I still don't get it.

    JimK, that was a good try but I don't know what you mean by the 1 & 4 being the pulse in 6/8 and
    1 & 3 in 4/4.

    Also, what in the world is a clave?
  10. count_funkula, try this..

    The upper figure show how many beats in the bar, and the lower figure the value of each beat, so if the time sig is 2/4 there are two crotchet beats (or quarter notes) in each bar. if the time sig is 3/2 then there will be three Minim beats ( or half notes ) in each bar.
    Also, 3/8 means three quaver beats in a bar, 3/4 three crotchet beats in a bar, 4/4 four crotchet beats in a bar, 2/2 two minim beats in a bar.
    6/8 six quaver beats in a bar.

    What JimK was telling you was how to count it out, if you use his guidelines for 6/8 it will help you to feel the beat for 6/8 the bold notes are ones that you would say / clap with a greater emphasis.

    If you have a metronome or click you can work along with it will help you keep a steady time. It would also help if you were familiar with note values as compared to each other for example, 1 crotchet is worth 2 quavers, it is also worth 4 semi quavers. I won't say anymore than that but a basic theory book will guide you. It will all help towards your counting time.
  11. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Yo Count,

    For the 6/8 thing and the pulse being on 1 & 4, think of a waltz, 123, 123, 123, 123... or 123, 456, 123, 456... The emphasis is on the 1 and the 4 if you count to six or always on the one if you count to three.

    As for the pulse being on the 1 & 3 for 4/4, I'm not sure if I agree with that. Typically with dance music you're snapping your finger on beat 2 and on beat 4 in unision with the snare drum as well as putting your foot down on beat 2 and 4.


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