|Instruction manual - Pizzicato 3.6.2||EN340 - Revision of 2013/05/29|
The time signature
Using time signature [Light] [Beginner] [Professional] [Notation] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro] [Drums and Percussion] [Guitar] [Choir] [Keyboard] [Soloist]
We have learned that the measure is a way to divide the duration of a musical work into smaller parts. We gave many examples, speaking about a 4/4 measure, without specifying what these two numbers mean.
Those numbers are called the time signature. They determine the total duration of the rhythms that can fit inside a measure. The first number (the numerator of the time signature) indicates the number of beats the measure is divided in. The second number (the denominator of the time signature) indicates the contents of each beat.
The beat is a division of the measure. In our preceding examples, we often spoke about a beat as being equivalent to the quarter note duration. This is only valid when the denominator of the time signature is equal to 4 (it is by the way the more common case).
The possible values for the denominator are 1,2,4,8,16 or 32. This value determines the content of one beat in the measure. Here is the equivalence table:
The bold values are the most common. The numerator of the time signature determines how much of these beats will fit in one measure. In the examples of the preceding lessons, the 4/4 thus represents a measure made up of 4 quarter notes. In the same way, 6/8 is a measure made up of 6 eighth notes, 2/2 is a measure made up of 2 half notes, etc.
The time signature used is indicated in the first measure, in the middle of the staff, just after the clef and the possible key signature. This indication is valid for all following measures. It is possible to change the time signature in the middle of a music work or even each measure if needed. In this case, the new time signature is displayed and stays valid until the next change:
The first beat of a measure is a strong beat. It marks the beginning of the measure. Other beats are weak beats. Strong beats have a tendency to be more marked than the others. They contribute to establish time reference points in the course of music.
Composite time signature [Light] [Beginner] [Professional] [Notation] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro] [Drums and Percussion] [Guitar] [Choir] [Keyboard] [Soloist]
The numerator of a time signature can be composed of several numbers separated by the "+" sign. Here is an example:
This composite measure thus comprises 3+2 = 5 quarter notes. The idea of a composite time signature modifies the distribution of weak beats and strong beats. If a 5/4 time signature had been written, the contents would have been the same, the first beat would have been strong and the others weak. By writing 3+2/4, you indicate that a 3/4 measure alternates with a 2/4 measure. In this case, the first and the fourth time are strong beats while the others are weak. The performer reads and plays the notes as if the measure was made up of 2 measures:
He will slightly and in a natural way accentuate the first and the fourth beats, which are strong ones.
Conventions and examples [Light] [Beginner] [Professional] [Notation] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro] [Drums and Percussion] [Guitar] [Choir] [Keyboard] [Soloist]
The 4/4 measure is often noted as a capital C meaning Common Time. The 2/2 measure is often noted as a crossed C meaning Cut Time. It is simply a notation convention. Here is an example:
Open and listen to the Ex023 example:
Remark: some versions of Pizzicato cannot display composite measures. This example may open in the professional evaluation mode. To go back in the license mode, use the Options, Working mode menu item.
The upper staff marks the division of the beats in the measure. Check the contents of each measure. Each time it fits the contents expected by the time signature. The tempo is fixed at 60 quarter notes per minute at the beginning of the first measure. It stays valid, whatever the time signature.
Notice that the eighth notes in the 6/8 measure were gathered by 3. It is very common for the 3/8, 6/8, 9/8 and 12/8 time signatures. Such measures are often considered to be based on the dotted quarter note (3 eighth notes). They respectively divide the measure into 1,2,3 and 4 dotted quarter notes. The eighth notes subdivide these dotted quarter notes into 3 parts.