Time signatures level 4
In this guide...
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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.
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:
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.
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:
In summary, here are all the simple and compound time signatures you are likely to meet - simple and compound; duple, triple, and quadruple:
|Time signature||Beat length||Description||Beat groups|
|dotted minim||compound duple|
|dotted crotchet||compound duple|
|dotted quaver||compound duple|
|dotted minim||compound triple|
|dotted crotchet||compound triple|
|dotted quaver||compound triple|
|dotted minim||compound quadruple|
|dotted crotchet||compound quadruple|
|dotted quaver||compound quadruple|
Are you sure you've understood everything in this study guide? Why not try the following practice questions, just to be sure!