Reading Music Lesson #34: Time Signature

This reading music lesson is a supplement to the Alfred’s Essentials of Music Theory self-study workbook. While no book is perfect for learning how to read music, this is one of the best available. The concise explanations, brief practice exercises, ear-training CD’s, glossary of music terms, and answer key make it an excellent value. Buy this top-rated self-study course for beginners to advanced musicians and follow along with me.
Best Self-Study Workbook
Alfred's Essentials of Music Theory: A Complete Self-Study Course for All Musicians (Book & 2 CDs)
$33.76

The best music theory book for self-study at home that includes an answer key in the back, CD's for ear-training, a short explanation of each concept, practice exercises, and a glossary of music terms.

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07/04/2022 07:37 pm GMT

The time signature is found right after the clef sign at the very beginning of your music.

The term meter is used interchangeably with time signature and they both mean the same thing.

There are 2 numbers you will find stacked on top of each other.

Top Number

The top number tells us how many beats are in each measure.

time signature

Top Number Examples

  • A number 4 on top means there are 4 beats in each measure.
  • A number 3 on top means there are 3 beats in each measure.
  • A number 2 on top means there are 2 beats in each measure.

Bottom Number

The bottom number tells us what type of note will receive 1 beat.

time signatures

Bottom Number Examples

  • The number 4 on the bottom represents a quarter note receiving 1 beat.
  • The number 2 on the bottom represents a half note receiving 1 beat.
  • The number 8 on the bottom represents an eighth note receiving 1 beat.

(Don’t worry about the eighth note quite yet.  We will learn about this a little later.)

With this basic understanding of how time signatures work, we are now ready to learn about the 3 most common time signatures in a little more depth.

Rhythm Flashcards with Time Signatures

NotePerfectProject Rhythm Cards Level 1 Elementary Time. Writable, Wipe-Clean Flash Cards. Music Education Through Game Playing.

A set of 32 laminated rhythm cards with 4 time signature cards. This rhythm reading tool can be used for activities, games, and puzzles. Use it for music lessons, homeschooling, and classrooms.

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Quick Music Theory Reference Books and Guides

Popular Music Theory Cheat Sheet
Music Theory and History SparkCharts
$4.95

This foldable 8x10 inch music theory cheat sheet is an excellent quick reference guide when you need to find the answer fast. The side 3-hole punch allows you to keep it in a 3-ring binder. It is sturdy and folds out featuring music theory and notation on the front and music history on the back.

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07/04/2022 06:11 pm GMT
Essential Dictionary of Music: The Most Practical and Useful Music Dictionary for Students and Professionals (Essential Dictionary Series)
$6.99

A practical pocket-size music theory dictionary and music notation reference guide that is perfect for all musicians from beginner to professional.

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07/04/2022 04:08 pm GMT
The Hal Leonard Pocket Music Dictionary
$9.99

A convenient music theory book that is small enough to fit in your pocket, backpack, or instrument case. A great reference guide for all musicians at any level of music study.

We earn a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no additional cost to you.
07/04/2022 07:08 pm GMT

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