Music Theory

Time Signatures

Lesson 3


Time Signatures

Time signatures define the feel of the song as well as some aspects of the timing.

There are many different time signatures and once I explain them to you, you will know all there is to know about them. Here are some examples of time signatures:

And here are some on a staff:

Now let’s examine the most common time signature, 4/4 time.

There is one 4 on top of the other. The top number is how many beats are in a measure. Each measure is divided by a vertical line. Remember that from Lesson 2? The bottom 4 is what type of note gets a beat. In this case it’s a quarter note. So there are 4 quarter notes in each measure (or the equivalent thereof, i. e.  2 half notes, or a half note and 2 quarter notes, or 8 eighth notes, etc.). Below is a measure of 4/4 time.

The same applies to other time signatures. ¾ time is the second most common time signature. Let’s look at that one.

Once again, the top number tells us how many beats are in a measure, and the bottom number tells us what kind of note gets a beat. So, there are 3 quarter notes per measure (or the equivalent thereof). Below is a measure of 3/4 time.

In the case of 2/4 time, there are 2 quarter notes per measure, in the case of 6/4 time, there are 6 quarter notes per measure, and in the case of 6/8 time, there are 6 eighth notes per measure.

As you can see, time signatures are pretty straight forward. Usually there is one time signature placed at the beginning of the song, but you can change the time signature at any time in music.


I have one last thing to add. There is also times when you might encounter a “C” or a “C” with a line through it as seen below:


The “C” stands for “common” time signature. The most common time signature is 4/4 time, so that is what it means. For the composer, it is easier to just write a “C” rather that 4/4.

The “C” with a line through it stands for “cut” time. If you cut the common time in half it is 2/2 time, and that is what cut time means. So if you encounter these symbols, you will know what they mean.


This concludes Lesson 3. I hope you found it to be informative. You should review it and know it. Then go on to Lesson 4. I hope that you understand everything alright. If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I will try to explain it better.

Take Care,

I Started out in 1976 trying out to sing in bands but no bands were interested in me. In 1977 I started playing guitar. The individual that was teaching me (who for now will remain anonymous) told me that I would NEVER learn how to play guitar because I had no sense of rhythm. I joined my first band in 1978 called "Dead Center" in Jacksonville, Florida. I played an Aspen guitar, black; a Les Paul copy and in 1981. I gave that guitar to the teacher who said I'd never learn to play. I wrote my first song in 1979 or '80. Over the years I have been in many bands but my passion has been songwriting. I have written well over 100 songs and though the early ones were kind of rough around the edges, I think that most of them could be dusted off and given a new facelift. Today I am still working on my songs. Currently I can play guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, harmonica, and Native American flute. The flutes that I play are ones that I made myself. My guitars are the Epiphone G-400 faded, an Ibanez RG370 DX, an Epiphone G 1275 double neck guitar. My acoustic guitars are an Alvarez 12 string and an old Kay guitar. My drum set is a Peace drum set. I do my recording on a Zoom HD16.
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