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Understanding Compound Time Signatures – from

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Understanding Compound Time Signatures

Welcome to  My name is Kent D. Smith.

Today’s article is about Compound Time Signatures in sheet music.  While this term may sound a little intimidating, the idea behind it is pretty straightforward.

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What Are Time Signatures?

Before we delve into compound time, let’s quickly recap what time signatures are. In music notation, a time signature appears at the beginning of a piece or a section and tells us how the beats are organized within each measure (or bar). It consists of two numbers stacked vertically:

  1. The top number indicates the number of beats per measure.
  2. The bottom number represents the type of note that receives one beat.

For example, in 4/4 time, there are four beats per measure, and each beat corresponds to a quarter note (crotchet).

Simple Time Signatures

Up until now, you’ve probably encountered simple time signatures. These are characterized by:

  • A top number of 2, 3, or 4.
  • Beats divided into two equal parts.
  • The main beat not being a dotted note.

For instance:

  • In 4/4 time, the main beat is a crotchet (quarter note).
  • In 2/2 time, the main beat is a minim (half note).
  • In 3/8 time, the main beat is a quaver (eighth note).

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