How To Count In Music

A time signature tells you how to count in the song. For instance, if you’ve ever been to a basketball game and they play the song “We Will Rock You”, I’m sure you’ve clapped to the beat or stomped your feet 1,2,3,4, 1,2,3,4, 1,2,3,4. The time signature is 4/4 for that song and the top number (4) represents the number of beats per measure or what you would count in each measure 1,2,3,4 over and over. The time signature consist of two numbers written like a fraction (stacked one on top of the other); most often the number of beats will fall between 2 and 12.

The bottom number tells you what kind of note will get 1 beat in a measure. So in 4/4 time signature the bottom number represents a quarter note (meaning a quarter note receives 1 count). If you think of a quarter in fraction terms it would be 1/4, so the 4 represents a quarter note. The only numbers you will see as the bottom number (the denominator) will correspond to note values:

1 = representing a whole note (you will never see this)

2 = representing a half note

4 = representing a quarter note

8 = representing an eighth note

16 = representing a sixteenth note

The time signature is written at the beginning of the staff after the clef and key signature. You can see different time signatures in the picture attached.


“I went to a record store and asked for 50 Cent, they kicked me out for panhandling.” Jay London

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