Understanding Time Signatures
- The top number shows how many beats occur in each measure.
- The bottom number shows the length of the beats: A 4 means each beat is a quarter note long; a 2 indicates a half note, etc.
4/4 time is also called “common time” because, you guessed it, it’s so common. You’ll see it a lot, so keep in mind:
- It may be written 4/4, or with a c-shaped half-circle (this symbol does not stand for common time; learn its true meaning).
- It’s also called “quadruple meter” or “imperfect time.”
- Cut common time is represented by the signature 2/2, or with a symbol similar to a cent sign. Cut time changes the rhythmic feel, but is mathematically equal to 4/4 meter.
See More Musical Symbols:
■Staff & Barlines ■Note Lengths ■Articulation Marks ■Repeat Signs
■The Grand Staff ■Dotted Notes ■Dynamics & Volume ■Segno & Coda Signs
■Time Signatures ■Accidentals ■Key Signatures ■Pedal Marks
■Tempo Commands ■Piano Chords ■Music Rests ■8va & Octave Commands