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Time Signatures

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by MikeyFingers, Jan 21, 2006.

  1. Can anyone give me a good explanation of time sigs?? I know by hearing a song whether it's in an odd time signature or not, and I can recognize a few of the more common ones (4/4, 3/4, etc). But still, I've never heard a good strait-forward explanation of what those 2 little numbers mean. I know the first number is the number of beats in a measure, but whats the second one mean? :confused:
  2. Think of the first number as being the quantity, and the second number as being the type of note. For instance one measure of 4/4 time would contain 4 beats, each beat being of crotchets or quarter-notes. One measure of 3/8 time would contain 3 beats, each beat being of quavers or eighth-notes.

    The second number is the type of note:

    Value   Name (English)            Name (US)
    2            breve (arch.)         double-note (???)†
    1           semibreve               whole-note
    1/2           minim                    half-note
    1/4          crotchet               quarter-note
    1/8           quaver                 eighth-note
    1/16        semiquaver           sixteenth-note
    1/32        demisemiquaver   thirty-second-note  
    † this is seldom used in UK - I'm just guessing at the US equivalent - anyone?
    Hope this helps -

    - Wil

    PS: Here's an even better explanation (thanks Wikipedia!!!)
  3. That helps a lot. But what about the REALLY odd time signatures? Like, I saw an instructional DVD of Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater's drummer) and at the end of the video, he was going through one of the songs from his band. The song had like 15 different time sigs in it, some of them had 7's and 9's in them, just really really wierd times.
    But yes, what you told me already REALLY helps.
  4. Sippy


    Aug 1, 2005
    You mean like compound time signatures like 6/4? and 9/8? Whenever the top number is divisible by 3 (unless the number is 3) its a compound signature. which Means their is a dotted note somewhere in there for example if the meter is 9/8. What will be in the measure is 3/4.. but each beat instead of a normal quarter, or eighth.. It will be dotted.
  5. As I said, here's an even better explanation…

    - Wil
  6. Cool, thanks man.