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Thread: time sigs

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  1. #1
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    time sigs

    I have been playing guitar for around 20 years but have never got round to learning to read music. I have recently started to teach my self piano so now am having to learn to read and have a quick question on how long to play a note for in various time sigs.

    I am working through a book and it tells me that in time sigs the top note is the number of beats in a bar and the bottom is the note that gets 1 beat so in 4/4 there is four beats and the quater note gets 1 beat.

    my question is that in other sigs like 3/4 a quater note is 1 beat but does a half note get 2 beats (twice a quater note) or 1.5 (half the number of beats in a bar) also if a whole note gets 4 beats (four times a quater note) and not three (the number of beats in the bar) it will the go on to the first beat of the next bar is that correct.

    Badly phrased question sorry but i hope you get the idea.

    thanks
    Phil

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Phil View Post
    my question is that in other sigs like 3/4 a quater note is 1 beat but does a half note get 2 beats (twice a quater note) or 1.5 (half the number of beats in a bar) also if a whole note gets 4 beats (four times a quater note) and not three (the number of beats in the bar) it will the go on to the first beat of the next bar is that correct.
    A half note in 3/4 is still two quarter note beats.

    You won't ever see a whole note in a 3/4 piece - all the notes and rests in every 3/4 measure will add up to exactly 3 quarter note beats - to notate a note that lasts four beats you'll see something like a dotted half note (3 beats) tied to a quarter note (1 beat) in the next bar.
    Last edited by walternewton; 01-01-2013 at 01:49 AM.

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    For a practical example here's a song you're probably familiar with, which you might try counting out...I've capitalized where the half notes fall in the lyric, and the "me" at the end of the first line is a tied dotted half note+quarter note of the sort I talked about above.

    a MA zi-ing GRACE how SWEET the SOUND that SAVED a-a WRETCH li-ike *ME*

    etc.
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    Last edited by walternewton; 01-01-2013 at 01:50 AM.

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    That is great thankyou.
    So just to clarify a quater note is always one beat and half note always 2 beats etc requarless of the time sig?

    Phil

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Phil View Post
    That is great thankyou.
    So just to clarify a quater note is always one beat and half note always 2 beats etc requarless of the time sig?

    Phil
    A quarter note is always counted as one beat in the case of those time signatures with a 4 on the bottom - 3/4, 4/4, etc. - and in any case a half note is always two quarter notes, etc. (and going the other way 2 eighth notes make up a quarter note, 2 sixteenth notes make up an eighth note, etc.)

    In a time signature like 6/8, like in an Irish jig, I would count the eighth note as one beat - ONE two three FOUR five six - but still 2 eighth notes make up a quarter note, 2 quarter notes make up a half note, etc. (and going the other way 2 sixteenth notes make up an eighth note, etc.)

    Here is a 6/8 counting example from the web:
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  6. #6
    Registered User Color of Music's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by walternewton View Post
    A quarter note is always counted as one beat in the case of those time signatures with a 4 on the bottom - 3/4, 4/4, etc. - and in any case a half note is always two quarter notes, etc. (and going the other way 2 eighth notes make up a quarter note, 2 sixteenth notes make up an eighth note, etc.)

    In a time signature like 6/8, like in an Irish jig, I would count the eighth note as one beat - ONE two three FOUR five six - but still 2 eighth notes make up a quarter note, 2 quarter notes make up a half note, etc. (and going the other way 2 sixteenth notes make up an eighth note, etc.)

    Here is a 6/8 counting example from the web:
    Just to add, when you see an n/8 TS, the beats are then divided into pulses. IOW, pulses 1 + 4 are really beats 1 + 2; whereas 2,3 + 5,6 are your four smaller pulses.

    When listening to a drum rhythm (as in the above pic), the kick will sound on beat (pulse) one while the snare/rimshot will sound on beat 2 (pulse four) You'll get the similar effect when comping on a piano/keyboard or strumming on a guitar. However, on a drumset, the distinction is made due to the hat/ride playing on the pulses.

    K-H-H, Sn-R-R (Two beats; 3 pulses = 1 beat; Six pulses = 2 beats)

    Btw, to figure out beats and pulses, you multiply and divide by 3 as 6/8 is compound time. 2/8 would be simple time; however, both TS sound very different. Hence, the common confusion that 6/8 = 3/4 because one thinks of TS as a fraction; however, in the case of music, "reducing" is clearly quite different than in math although math and music are very closely related.

    To get beats (simple time) divide pulses (the top number in the TS) by three. To get pulses (compound time), multiply by 3.

    This is what has occurred when you see:

    6/4, 6/8, 9/8, 12/8; in simple time these are: 2/4, 2/8, 3/8 and 4/8

    Usually. half and quarter notes get the beat (with 3/8 being one exception) while eighths and sixteenths get the pulse.

    Of course, you do get odd time signatures: the most famous being that of 5/4 - Brubeck's (?) Take Five and more obscure meters you generally hear in rock/heavy metal (7/4, 11/4, etc.)

    If I mistakenly bumped up an old post my apologies nor did I mean to step on the previous post.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Phil View Post
    That is great thankyou.
    So just to clarify a quater note is always one beat and half note always 2 beats etc requarless of the time sig?

    Phil
    Yes, in any time sig with "4" as bottom number, as walter says.

    Where the bottom number is something else (usually 8 or 2) then it's different.
    As explained above, in "n/8" time sigs, where the "n" is divisible by 3, then the beat is a dotted quarter (the 8ths falling into triplets).
    IOW, 6/8 = 2 beats per bar
    9/8 = 3 beats per bar
    12/8 = 4 beats per bar

    IOW I disagree with walter on how one would count 6/8. Normally (as in Irish jigs) it's too fast to be able to count "ONE-two-three-FOUR-five-six" comfortably. It would be counted "ONE-and-a-TWO-and-a".
    Other typical examples of 6/8 are tunes from the Wizard of Oz, like Follow the Yellow Brick Road, or We're Off to See the Wizard. Try counting those as ONE-two-three-FOUR-five-six, and your tongue would soon get in a twist...

    However, 6/8 can be slow enough to count all 6 beats (as in some pop ballads), but it would still be misleading to do so, making the feel sound a lot faster than it is. Eg, When a Man Loves a Woman:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8raabzZNqw
    Which of the following do you think feels right?
    Code:
          |1   .   .   2   .   .  |1   .   .   2   .   .  |
    When a man -   -   - loves a   wo----------man
    
          |1   2   3   4   5   6  |1   2   3   4   5   6  |
    When a man -   -   - loves a   wo----------man
    (The second one is not wrong, provided you emphasise 1 and 4, but the former matches the music better, IMO.)

    When the bottom number is 2 - as in 2/2 or 3/2 - then the half-note is the beat.
    This can be a little hard to understand, because 2/2 may not sound very different (nor look very different in the notation) from 4/4. The difference is a subtle one, and can be understood as being like 4/4 except that beats 1 and 3 have more emphasis than usual. It can have a "half-time" feel. In jazz, they say "in 2", meaning the bass will usually play on 1 and 3 only rather than walking in 4.
    It's not necessarily a slow feel, it can be quite fast. But for various reasons it may make sense to write it as 2/2 rather than 2/4.
    2/2 is known as "cut time", and can be indicated with a large "C" with a vertical line through it. (Because 4/4 is known as "common time", and can be indicated with a large "C".)

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    IOW I disagree with walter on how one would count 6/8. Normally (as in Irish jigs) it's too fast to be able to count "ONE-two-three-FOUR-five-six" comfortably.

    6/8 can be slow enough to count all 6 beats (as in some pop ballads), but it would still be misleading to do so, making the feel sound a lot faster than it is.
    I don't disagree that your way may be easier and/or truer feeling when considering such music at speed for some (if not most) - but for a very beginner to reading music (the original question is about whether 2 quarter notes are always equivalent to a half note) who might working out an individual measure with complications like 16th notes/16th note triplets, rests, dotted notes, grace notes etc. I think it might be easier at first to explicitly account for each eighth note beat, no?
    Last edited by walternewton; 01-04-2013 at 04:19 AM.

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