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Simple and Compound Time Signatures

Module by: Terry B. Ewell. E-mail the author

Summary: Brief presentation of simple and compound time signatures.

Simple and Compound Time Signatures

Simple Time Signatures

Figure 1
Figure 1 (graphics1.png)

In simple time signatures the top number represents the number of beats per measure. The bottom number indicates the type of note equal to one beat. The division of the beat is the lower number multiplied by 2. Thus, the division of the beat is grouped by twos.

Figure 2
Figure 2 (graphics2.png)
Figure 3
Figure 3 (graphics3.png)

In compound time signatures the top number divided by 3 represents the number of beats per measure. The bottom number indicates the type of note that divides the beat. The division of the beat is grouped by threes.

Figure 4
Figure 4 (graphics4.png)

Hearing simple and compound time signatures

Listen carefully for the pulse or beat of the music. Do you hear divisions of two or three? A simple test is to try saying "apple" or "pineapple" to each beat. "Apple" has two syllables and will fit simple meters. "Pineapple"--having three syllables--naturally fits compound meters.

Protions created by Laurel A. Ewell and used with her permission.

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