Getting A Grip On The 3/4 Time Signature

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Just like the 2/4 time signature, the 3/4 time signature can also be found at the very beginning of your music right after the clef sign. This also happens to be true with all time signatures in music.

3/4 time signature The top number and bottom numbers are important in giving us clues as to how to understand this time signature.

  1. How many beats (or counts) are in each measure = the top number.
  2. What type of note will receive 1 beat = the bottom number.

Go ahead and take a look at how this applies to 3/4 time…

The 3/4 Time Signature

The top and bottom numbers in 3/4 time tell us how many beats will occur in each measure and what type of note will receive 1 count.

In this case, the top number indicates there will be 3 beats in a measure while the bottom number says a quarter note will receive 1 count.

Top Number = 3 beats in each measure.

Bottom Number = quarter note will receive 1 count.

Can the Bottom Number Change?

Absolutely, it can! This is something to watch out for.  Anytime you see the number “4” on the bottom of a key signature, it will always mean a quarter note receives 1 count.

However, this bottom number can change representing a different kind of note equaling 1 count. This is not something to worry about right now, but be aware in general how the bottom number functions.

The Bottom Number

As mentioned above, the bottom number is a “4” representing a quarter note equaling 1 count. This is true for all key signatures with the number “4” on the bottom.

The Top Number

The top number is always the easiest to understand because it is so straight forward.  This number just tells us how many beats will be in each measure.

Since the top number is “3”, we will have 3 beats in each measure. This means the notes and rests throughout the music will be organized into groups of three’s for easier reading and playing.

3/4 Time Signature Examples

Look at a few of these examples using the 3/4 time signature. Count and clap a few of these exercises to put them into practice.

3/4 Time Signature

3/4 time signature

Understanding key signatures may look difficult, but as you can see, there really isn’t that much to it. As long as you know what the top and bottom numbers mean and how they function, you will have no trouble solving any key signature.

Keep up the excellent work! You are one step closer to successful music reading!

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2 Replies to “Getting A Grip On The 3/4 Time Signature”

Brooke Ford

I don’t remember signing up for your newsletter, but however it got to me I’m so glad. You have so much great information. I’m a 65 year old female, and have just joined my very first orchestra to play my beloved Timpani. But I’m also trying to learn marimba and piano. Unfortunately, I’m one of those people you talk about who can’t seem to memorize at all. I KNOW F-A-C-E and A-C-E-G, etc., but when the notes are coming at me fast when playing I still seem to have to stop and figure out which note I’m looking at. Maybe it is old age???!! I know the material, but I just can’t use it efficiently. I mean, if you give me a note and tell me to write it on a clef, I can do it just fine, but I just can’t do it all quickly. Frustrating!!!

Hi Brooke – Timpani is a wonderful instrument! I’m so glad you have joined a group to keep exploring and enjoying music. This is what I would suggest, work on your note reading away from your instrument. Flash cards work great and so does just quickly saying the name of each note out loud in your music as you point to it. When you stall on a note, circle it and then focus on naming all your circled notes. This is a very efficient way to practice as you are focusing on only what you need and not everything you can do well and know already. This type of focused practice will increase your memory capabilities and add to your overall knowledge base. Don’t worry about reading quickly right now, that will come as you keep practicing.

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