Rhythm primer (part 13): Time Signatures part2

Welcome to the 2nd part of the time signatures tutorial. If you haven't yet, you'll want to read the first part first. In the last lesson went over the basics of meter. To quickly recap, 4/4 means 4 quarter notes in each measure, 3/4 means 3 quarter notes in each measure, 6/8 is 6 eighth notes in each measure, and 3/2 would mean 3 half notes for each measure.


In the above picture notice that the first measure has 6 eighth notes which would total 1+1+1+1+1+1=6. The second measure has 3 quarter notes in it. Even though in 6/8 the eighth carries the basic beat, a quarter note is always worth 2 eighth notes. So to total the measure to see if we do actually have 6 beats in it, it would read 2+2+2=6. One final note about 6/8 is that the accent falls on 1 and 4. In 6/8 we usually beam three eighths together (like in the first measure above) to show where the accents are landing. The second measure doesn't have a note on beat 4. This is odd maybe, but perfectly fine. 6/8 is said to be a compound meter. Don't worry too much about the fancy title (if you're really curious, Wikipedia.com has an excellent article covering simple vs compound meters).

In this example we have a single measure of 10/8, which should have a total value of 10 eighth notes. Again a quarter note is worth 2 eighth notes, so you could total the note values to make sure it does in fact come to ten like this: 1+1+1+1+1+1+2+2=10. If you're good at fractions you may be asking yourself, why would you use 10/8 instead of 5/4? If you were wondering this you should buy yourself a cookie- you deserve it. The difference really just comes down to accents. The accent in 5/4 would land on the quarter note (so beat 1, 3 , 5, 7, or 9 in 10/8). But in the example above you can see the author wants you to accent the 1, 4, 7, and 9. Since 4 would be not be possible if you were using quarter notes, it was necessary to use 10/8. If that didn't make much sense to you, it's alright. The main point is that 10/8 should come to a total of 10 eighth notes. If that did make sense to you, then buy yourself a second cookie!

In our third and final lesson on time signatures, we will take a listen to several popular songs that use different time signatures. It should make things more clear when you can actually hear it happening in real music.

Click here to go to the next lesson: Time Signatures, part 3

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