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Time signatures level 4

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Building on the compound time signatures we met in Time signatures level 3, let's fill out the picture and look at some more examples of compound time signatures.

Compound time

Recall that in compound duple time, we count the same number of beats as in simple duple time, but that each beat consists of three subdivisions rather than two, as shown here:

Counting in 2/4 and 6/8Counting in 2/4 and 6/8

More time signatures

The time signature in compound time shows the number of subdivisions, rather than the number of beats; so in the case of 6/8, the time signature tells us that there are 6 eighth notes, or quavers, to a bar. These are grouped into two beats, each of a dotted crotchet.

Just as we can go from 2/4 to 6/8, it is possible to go from 2/8 (two quaver beats, subdividing to two groups each of two semiquavers) to 6/16 (two dotted quaver beats, each subdividing into groups of three semiquavers).

Similarly, we can go from 3/2 to 9/4: three minim beats, (each subdividing into two crotchets), to three dotted minim beats, each subdividing into three crotchets.

Missing barlines

It is particularly important to know these groups in compound time signatures when you have to write in barlines. Here is an example question that asks you to write in the barlines for some music in 9/8.

As you can see, the first step is to identify the beats and groups of notes, which in 9/8 we know are three beats subdividing into three quavers each:

Q. This music begins on the first beat of the bar. Add the missing barlines.Q. This music begins on the first beat of the bar. Add the missing barlines.

In summary

In summary, here are all the simple and compound time signatures you are likely to meet - simple and compound; duple, triple, and quadruple:

Duple time:

Time signatureBeat lengthDescriptionBeat groups
2/2minimsimple duple(minim + minim)
6/4dotted minimcompound duple(dotted_minim + dotted_minim)
2/4crotchetsimple duple(crotchet + crotchet)
6/8dotted crotchetcompound duple(dotted_crotchet + dotted_crotchet)
2/8quaversimple duple(quaver + quaver)
6/16dotted quavercompound duple(dotted_quaver + dotted_quaver)

Triple time:

3/2minimsimple triple(minim + minim + minim)
9/4dotted minimcompound triple(dotted_minim + dotted_minim + dotted_minim)
3/4crotchetsimple triple(crotchet + crotchet + crotchet)
9/8dotted crotchetcompound triple(dotted_crotchet + dotted_crotchet + dotted_crotchet)
3/8quaversimple triple(quaver + quaver + quaver)
9/16dotted quavercompound triple(dotted_quaver + dotted_quaver + dotted_quaver)

Quadruple time:

4/2minimsimple quadruple(minim + minim)       (minim + minim)
12/4dotted minimcompound quadruple(dotted_minim + dotted_minim)       (dotted_minim + dotted_minim)
4/4crotchetsimple quadruple(crotchet + crotchet)       (crotchet + crotchet)
12/8dotted crotchetcompound quadruple(dotted_crotchet + dotted_crotchet)       (dotted_crotchet + dotted_crotchet)
4/8quaversimple quadruple(quaver + quaver)       (quaver + quaver)
12/16dotted quavercompound quadruple(dotted_quaver + dotted_quaver)       (dotted_quaver + dotted_quaver)


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