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RhythmBot

A Basic Introduction to Rhythm
Part 5: Time Signatures

The meter of a piece of music is indicated by the time signature. The time signature is placed at the beginning of a piece of music and it consists of two numbers placed one on top of the other. The top number tells us what the meter is, and it tells us how many beats are in a measure.

Here are example of three very common time signatures:

Two-Four-Time
Three-Four Time
Four-Four Time

If the top number is 2, then we are in duple meter, and there are two beats in every measure.
If the top number is 3, then we are in triple meter, and there are three beats in every measure.
If the top number is 4, then we are in quadruple meter, and there are four beats in every measure.

The bottom number in the time signature tells us what note value is equal to one beat.
Note value is the musical term for duration, or how long a note is to be played. The first note value we will learn is the quarter note. The quarter note consists of an oval note head, and a stem that can point upward or downward.

Quarter Note

When the bottom number of the time signature is 4, then each beat is equal to one quarter note.

Therefore, the following time signature means that there are 2 beats in a measure and the quarter note is equal to one beat. It is called “two-four” time.
Two-four time example

The time signature below means that there are 3 beats in a measure and the quarter note is equal to one beat. It is called “three-four” time.
Three-four time example

The time signature below means that there are 4 beats in a measure and the quarter note is equal to one beat. It is called “four-four” time.
Four-four time example

These three time signatures are very common and we will focus on them for now. There are many other possible time signatures, though. We will cover them later, but it is good to know that the bottom number is not always 4. There are other time signatures in which the quarter note is not equal to one beat.

Let’s look further into note values.
Go to Part 6:

 

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