Time signature and Beats - Music Theory for Guitar

Music is the poetry of the air.

Jean Paul Richter German Romantic Writer
Everything has its measures in our world: clothes and shoes, cars and their details, from which cars are made. There are guitars for children and adults and they are different from each other. The measure is also relevant to music. Of course, guitar music also has its measure. In music theory, it is called the time signature. I'm sure you have already known at least a one-time signature. If you remember the sound of a waltz, you can guess its musical regularity. In my case, when we have guitar lessons and there is a question about musical timing, I always play small compositions, and students always easily guess the regularity of the waltz.

Let's start with this small topic so that every newbie who reads this page can say: "it's so easy ..."

Pulse and Beats

The first thing to start with is to understand with your whole body what a pulsation is. For example, you turn on a record of your favorite guitar composition and start to tap the rhythm with your foot. It will be a regular rhythmic pulsation which is known as a beat in music.

Beats line up in small groups of sounds and these groups in their turn organize according to their strength. The first beat is the strongest and the first beat is called the downbeat. Let's just remember one rule that the distance from one downbeat to the next in music is called a measure. A bar line is written before each first beat. In this way, we divide staff into measures.

notes and measures

  1. Measure
  2. Bar line

Try to listen and hear beats in music, accented beats are called "on" beats, and unstressed are called "off" beats. Clear alternation of the strong beats and weak beats will create the pulse of the music. If we try to recall how the soldier's march is, we will have an association with the march. One - your left foot, two - your right foot. March - time signature 2/4. If you recall a ball where people dance in beautiful costumes, you will notice how the dancers so to speak pulsate, once - two – three, once - two - three. This is a timing of a waltz - 3/4.



It's time to talk about such a notion as the meter. The organized pulsation of beats and measures in music theory is called a meter. The meter is written in two numbers, which are called a time signature. The time signature is written at the start of each musical work.

Time Signature

Time Signature

Let's take a closer look at what these numbers mean.

what is the Time Signature

The top number tells the guitarist about the number of beats in a measure. In our case, there are three beats, so we will count to three.

time signature number

The lower number indicates the guitarist about the value duration of the note, which is a unit of this measure.

In our case it is a quarter duration, you can also often find in the meter eight durations and other different variations. It all depends on the musical intentions of the composer.

Meters can be duple and triple. These meters are simple because they have two or three parts with one accented sound.

two four time signature

Two-four Time Signature - Duple meter - Two-quarters beats per measure

three four time signature

Three-four Time signature - Triple meter - Three quarters beats per measure

Compound meters are formed by merging simple ones.

four four time signature

Four-four Time signature - Quadruple meter - Four quarters beats per measure

six eight time signature

Six-eight time signature - Sextuple Meter - Six-eighths beats per measure

The last thing that we have to say about meters is that they can be mixed, odd, and asymmetric. In my opinion, the mixed meter is clear from its name, the mixed meter is formed by mixing of duple and triple meters.

five four time signature

Five-four Time signature

Listen to a popular 5/4 jazz song written by Dave Brubeck. It is called Take Five and is performed by Gary Ryan.

I think all music lovers won’t be indifferent to this song. Also, you can feel the polyrhythm of 7/4 meter in the song Unsquare Dance by Dave Brubeck.

So, to summarize everything above, I want to note that time signature in music is a very important topic. This issue is quite simple, but it is easy to get confused. It is very important at the very beginning to understand it thoroughly. Your ability to count, work with different rhythms will form your inner sense of rhythm, pulsation. You will be able to understand what the author meant, to unravel the ancient rhythmic code to play a wonderful work rhythmically and confidently. My name is Serhii Hlushchenko. Serenada Guitar School and I wish you creative success and inspiration.

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