In another post on how to read piano music, I told you about the Bass and Treble Clef, and how the names of the different notes on the piano keyboard relate to the lines and spaces on the Grand Staff. We are now going to understand how to read the Time Signatures written on the Grand Staff.
The Time Signature of a piece of music is given by the two numbers written by the Treble Clef, as you will see in the pictures below. To understand what these numbers mean you must also notice that on a sheet of music there are vertical lines draw across the Bass and Treble Clef at regular intervals, dividing the music up into regular blocks, which are called Measures. The vertical line is called the Bar.
Each individual Measure lasts for the same time duration, and can consist of a combination of notes and rests.
The time signature, also known as a “meter”, tells the musician how many notes are in a measure.
When playing music musicians learn to count beats; a beat is the name for a unit of music. Some musicians use a metronome, a device that ticks out beats, and will tick according to which timing you have set. Counting beats starts when the first note is played.
Let us now look at some timing signatures to understand what they mean.
This is the two four time signature, which means that there are 2 beats per measure and the 4 indicates that a quarter note gets played on each beat.
This is the three four time signature, which means that there are 3 beats per measure and 4 indicates that a quarter note gets played on each beat.
This is the four four time signature, which means that there are 4 beats per measure and lower 4 indicates that a quarter note gets played on each beat.
This is the six eight time signature, which means that there are 6 beats per measure and 8 indicates that a eight note gets played on each beat.
There are more time signatures. A common time signature is the 4/4 time signature as it is easier to count.
The following are the rules of the 4/4 time signature:
- There are 4 beats in one measure.
- When you play a single whole note, count out 4 beats.
- When you play a single half note, count out 2 beats.
- Play a quarter note, on each beat.
- Two eight notes fit into 1 beat
- Four sixteenth notes fit into 1 beat
When learning to play the piano / keyboard, count aloud to get used to the rhythm. Also some keyboards come with a built in digital metronome that will tick at the rate you can set.
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