Music Theory Education


6. Time Signatures and Bar Lines

6. time signatures and bar lines

Grade 1. lesson 6 time signatures and bar lines

What do the numbers at the beginning of a piece of music mean?

The numbers are called the Time Signature.

A Time Signature is two numbers one written above the other,
they are found at the beginning of a piece of music.
They tell the musician how many beats are written per measure.

Although there are many different time signatures used in music,

for grade1.we will only be looking at


Music time signatures


What does the bottom number tell us?

Each of the three Time Signatures we will be using for this grade is a number '4'
The number four tells us what kind of note equals 1 beat.

This means we will be counting our beat values in Crotchets (Quarter Notes).

What does the Top number mean?

The top number is the number which tells us how many beats are needed for each measure.

The measures are divided by vertical lines written through the Staff / Stave.

These lines are called Bar Lines.


single bar and double bar lines

When you have a number 2 as the top number, it means there are
two beats in each measure, a number 3 stands for three beats in
each measure, while the number 4 at the top equals four beats per measure.


With a number 4at the bottom all our three time signatures for this grade are

Crotchet (Quarter Note) beat values.


Take a look at these examples below


time signature with treble clef and info


Staff (stave) with treble and Bass Grand Staff

info on time signatures


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More about Time Signatures and Bar Line

Although the Time Signature tells how many crotchet (quarter notes) beats per bar,
it does not mean we have to use just crotchet (quarter notes) in every bar.
If we did, the music rhythm would be very dull.

Looking at the four bars in the example below, you will see by mixing up the different
  kinds of notes, giving different beat values will make an interesting rhythm. We need
  to make sure, whichever kind of notes we use the value adds up to the time signature.


four bar melody count the time values

Count 1.........2.........3........1.... ..2 .....3..........1..... 2.... +.......... 3........... 1... 2.... 3


Bar 1. is a nice easy start with just each crotchet (quarter note) beat worth 1 beat. You see
  from the count written underneath, 1 2 3 now we have used up our three beats allowed
  for that measure, we need to add a bar-line, ready to start counting from beat 1 in the next bar.


Bar 2.this time our first note is a minim (half note) it uses up the first two beats, then comes the
  crotchet (quarter note) which takes the 3rd beat, again we now add a bar-line, ready to
  start counting from beat 1 in the next bar.


Bar a nice change in the rhythm, we gave the first note a Dot, which makes the value
  of the note worth 1 and 1/2 beats. To make up the value of the 2nd beat we used a quaver
  note (eighth note). Notice when writing the count for the second half of beat two, we used a
  plus sign '+' to represent the word 'and'
  (counting bar 3 we would say 'One Two and Three' )once again we are ready for another


Bar we used only one note, by adding the Dot to the minim (half note) the note became
  a Dotted Minim (Dotted Half Note) worth the value of the three beats required to fill the bar.


two ways to write time signature 4/4 or C


Looking at the two examples of the Time Signature written above
you will see there are two different ways to write the 4/4 signature.

The second way is to use a Capital letter 'C'
musicians call this 'Common Time' because there is more music written
in 4/4 time, than any other.


You will not need to use this method in your grade 1. but you need to know about it.

You may be asked to,

name another way to write 4/4 time? .....................




Time Signatures and Bar Lines



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