What Is Music Time Signature, Simple Meter & Compound Meter?

Lesson 10 - Music Time Signature

In this lesson, we will learn about music time signature and key signature. Also, understand how to read time signature with an example.

What does music time signature mean?

Music time signature tells us the number of beats in a measure and the note value that corresponds to each beat.

A time signature is a fraction represented by X/Y, where X denotes the number of beats in a measure while Y denotes the note value assigned to each beat.

What is a measure or bar?

A bar is a vertical line that divides the staff into equal sections called measures.

The measure refers to the section of the staff paper containing beats between two adjacent bars.

The words ‘bar’ and ‘measure’ are used interchangeably in western music.

What is a meter?

The meter of music is its rhythmic structure containing the patterns of accents.

Meter is classified into simple meters and compound meters.

What is simple meter?

A simple meter always has two, three or four beats in each measure.

That means the top number in the time signature will always have numbers like 2, 3, and 4.

The terms duple, triple and quadruple indicates the number of beats in each measure.

  • The duple meter has two beats in each measure.
  • The triple meter has three beats in each measure.
  • The quadruple meter has four beats in each measure.

Let’s elaborate the simple meter.

Simple duple meter with a quarter note: The time signature (2/4) tells that each measure has two beats, each with a note value of the quarter note.

Simple triple meter with a quarter note: The time signature (3/4) tells that each measure has three beats, each with a note value of the quarter note.

Simple quadruple meter with a quarter note: The time signature (4/4) tells that each measure has four beats, each with a note value of the quarter note.

Simple duple meter with a half note: The time signature (2/2) tells that each measure has two beats, each with a note value of the half note.

Simple triple meter with a half note: The time signature (3/2) tells that each measure has three beats, each with a note value of the half note.

Simple quadruple meter with a half note: The time signature (4/2) tells that each measure has four beats, each with a note value of the half note.

Simple duple meter with an eighth note: The time signature (2/8) tells that each measure has two beats, each with a note value of an eighth note.

Simple triple meter with an eighth note: The time signature (3/8) tells that each measure has three beats, each with a note value of an eighth note.

Simple quadruple meter with an eighth note: The time signature (4/8) tells that each measure has three beats, each with a note value of an eighth note.

Here’s the chart for time signatures and simple meter.

Chart - Music Time Signature - Simple Meter
Chart: Music Time Signature – Simple Meter

What is compound meter?

A compound meter always has six, nine and twelve beats in each measure.

That means the top number in the time signature will always have numbers 6,9, and 12. The denominator is any note value.

What is Key Signature?

Key signature indicates the type of scale used for composing the music. It may be a major scale or a minor scale based on the number of sharp or flat symbols used near the clef symbol.

The number of sharps and flats on the lines and space tells us which music scale we are referring to.

Thanks for reading my 80th article in the series 100-day music blogging challenge. Stay tuned for more informative lessons.

100 Days Music Blogging Challenge Music Theory Lessons

Author: Bharat

Hi, I'm Bharat. An artist, blogger, musician and digital marketing professional dedicated to sharing musing and stories about music, art and mindful resonance! Follow me @bharatpc

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