0-9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
« Back to appendix

Time Signatures

Time signature is a symbol placed at the left side of the staff indicating the meter of the composition. Time signatures are always notated with two numbers, one on top of the other, much like a fraction in math. The top number denotes the number of beats in each measure. The bottom number denotes the note value that receives the beat. The note values that can receive beats include double whole note, whole note (1), half note (2), quarter note (4), eighth note (8), sixteenth note (16), thirty-second note (32), sixty-fourth note (64), and one hundred and twenty-eighth note (128).

Common Time Signatures

Notational Variations

Common time is used for 4/4 time. The symbol, not to be thought as the letter “C”, came about from the Medieval notation of a half-circle, representing the duple division of the breve and the semibreve.

Cut time is used for 2/2 time. Also known as alla breve, it indicates a quick duple meter with the half note.