Today we will continue to learn about time signatures. In the previous lesson, we learned that there are two types of time signatures: simple and compound. We also learned how to understand simple time signatures. Let’s continue.
As a reminder, the upper number shows how many beats a bar will have. So, in simple time signatures, the top number will always be 2, 3, 4, 5 or 7. When the top number is 3, it means that each bar will have 3 beats.
The bottom number is the note value for each beat, or what note value gets one beat, as shown in the table below:
Other numbers, such as 6, 9 or 12, for example, are used for compound time signatures.
A 4/4 time signature then means that each bar will have 4 beats and each beat will have a note value of a quarter note, as shown in the example below:
The total sum of a 4/4 time signature is 4 (1+1+1+1).
So, any combination of note values inside a 4/4 bar must have a total of 4. Let’s see another example:
Notice that we can freely mix notes and rests, as long as the total sum is 4.
Here’s an example of a 3/4 bar:
A 3/4 time signature will have 3 beats, and each beat will have a note value of a quarter note. Notice that we also can mix notes and rests, observing that in this case, the total sum for each bar must be 3 (1+1+1).
Now, let’s consider that we want to write notes in a 3/8 time signature. How to do that?
A 3/8 time signature will have 3 beats, as the top number indicates. However, the bottom number is 8, which says that each beat will have a note value of an 8th note. Observe:
So, to properly write notes in a 3/8 time signature, we can mix notes and rests, as long as the total sum is 1.5 (the equivalent of 3 eighth notes):
Notice that in the example above the total sum of each bar is exactly 1.5.
A few notes to consider:
- The time signature does not indicate the tempo of a song. If the bottom number is 8 or 16, it doesn’t mean that it is faster. We can’t say that a 3/8 song is faster than a 3/4 song.
- What sets the tempo of a song is the BPM indication, which means that the following time signatures:
Will sound exactly the same.
That’s it! Keep practicing and soon you’ll be mastering time signatures.