Time Signatures:
all you need to know

The time signature comes just after the Clef sign and key signature at the beginning of any piece of written music.

The symbol looks like a fraction and gives us directions on how to count the notes in the piece of music and also gives us an idea of the feel of the piece of music.

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The top number tells us how many pulses, or beats, or counts are in each measure of music

The bottom number tells what kind of note ( quarter, half, eigth, etc.) will recieve one count or beat.

Basic time signatures:

The subject of time signaures can get fairly technical and there are lots of variations that can be discussed. However I am going to let you know the ones you will encounter most frequently in an effort to save you from a lot of mind numbing theory.

4/4, also known as common time.

In 4/4 time, the most common signature, there will be four beats or counts in each measure and the quarter note will count as one beat.

Because the 4/4 signature is the most common it is also called Common time and and is sometimes notated with big C as seen in this graphic.

Just about all Popular dance music is in 4/4 time. Blues, Jazz, Rock, Country etc, if its on the radio or in a dance club its most likely in 4/4 time.

2/4 or cut time will have two beats per measure with a quarter note getting one count. 2/4 time examples would be polkas and some marches.

If you have ever been to a Polish wedding you will surely have encountered 2/4 time

Another common signature is 3/4 or waltz time ( named after the dance that has three steps).

In this time there will be three beats or pulses per measure and the quarter note will have one count

All waltz's and many country and western, R&B and Pop Ballads may use this time signature. Some examples would be Tennessee Waltz, Could I have this Dance, and Once, Twice, Three times a Lady etc.

6/8 time

Some Rock music will have this feel as well as Double jigs, polkas, tarantella, marches, barcarolles, and Irish jigs.

Some popular sons with a 6/8 feel would be:
Old Friends – [Simon& Garfunkel] We Are the Champions - [Queen]
Lights - [Journey] (How Can You Mend) A Broken Heart - [Bee Gees, Al Green] and Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) – [The Beatles]

12/8 time or (quadruple)

This signature is common in slower blues (where it is known as shuffle) and doo-wop; also used more recently in rock music. Some examples of tunes in 12/8 time would be:

It's a Man's World - James Brown
Natural Women - Aretha Franklin U2's "Trip Through Your Wires.""Memory", from Cats. Andrew Lloyd Webber.
BB King: Sweet Little Angel

Some interesting "uncommon" time signatures".

Some of my favorite jazz pieces that experimented with irregular meter were by The Dave Brubeck Quartet.

The most recognizable would be "Take Five"' written in 5/4 time. Dave Brubeck also created compositions in 11/4 ("Eleven Four"), 7/4 ("Unsquare Dance"), and 9/8 ("Blue Rondo à la Turk"), expressed as 2+2+2+3.

Best Home Study for "Ear Players"

After checking out dozens of home study courses that teach you to play by ear and focus on chord progressions I am convinced that the folks at Hear and Play have the best, most well rounded program available for just about all styles of music from Gospel to Jazz. Read my review or visit Hear and Play for more information.

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If you have any questions, suggestions, or ideas for future lessons feel free to Contact Me.

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4 Steps to Learning How to Play Any Song on the Piano

1. Determining the melody - Melodies determine what chords will be played. If you can use your ear to figure out what notes are being played in the melody, you are 1/4 on your way to learning a song! More resources on learning how to determine melodies

2.Harmonizing the melody - Once you have figured out the melody (using some of my techniques on the resource page), it is time to harmonize it. This is simply choosing various chords to accompany the melody. There are several techniques and tricks to doing this. More resources on learning how to harmonize melodies

3. Altering Chords - This is the best part! Now that you have strategically figured out the melody to a song and have harmonized it, altering your chords to produce certain sounds is the next step. If you were playing gospel music, you would alter your chords differently than if you were playing classical or country music. More resources on altering chords

4. Listening - After you have determined the melody, harmonized the melody, and altered some of your chords, there are various techniques you can use to make sure that your song sounds right. More resources on listening techniques

I personally recommend "The Secrets to Playing Piano By Ear" 300-pg Course and through my relationship with Jermaine (the author of this course), I've been able to get him to throw in a few bonus items (3 additional piano software programs). He has taught literally thousands of musicians how to play the piano by ear. If you understood just half of what he discussed above, you'll definitely benefit from his 300-pg course. Click here to learn the secrets to playing absolutely any song on the piano in virtually minutes! I highly recommend it.

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