Muze Online: lesson 4 

Time signatures 

Most songs are in 4/4 time. This is shown like this on the stave. The top number represents how many beats there are, and the second number represents what type of beats those are. 4/4 means that there are 4 quarter note beats in the bar.

A 3/4 time signature means there are 3 quarter note beats in a bar.

A 5/4 time signature means there are 5 quarter note beats in a bar.

A 6/8 time signature means there are 6 eight note beats in a bar.


Why do we need different time signatures? Because we can get different feels and genres. For example, the Waltz is in 3/4 time and often folk music uses 6/8 time.


The rhythms we learnt last week (whole note, half note, quarter note, eight note and sixteenth note) are used for all time signatures. They all fit into each other the same way in every time signature. For example, 1 half note is the same as 2 quarter notes, and the same as 4 eight notes. It might be helpful to think of a whole note as 4 beats. A half note as 2 beats, a quarter note as 1 beat, an eight notes as 1/2 a beat and a sixteenth note at 1/4 of a beat.


In a 4/4 time signature all the notes in each bar must add up to 4 quarter notes. Any combination of rhythms can be used as long as they add up to 4 quarter notes. In a 3/4 time signature any combination of rhythms can be used as long as they add up to 3 quarter notes. A 6/8 time time signature might feel a little confusing. You will wonder why can’t you just reduce 6/8 to 3/4? After all, they add up to the same amount. However they are organised differently. Any time signature which uses eight notes is grouped in 3. 6/8 is grouped into 2 groups of 3 eighth notes. 3/4 time would be grouped into 3 groups of 2 eighth notes. (Don’t worry if this feels a little confusing, we can do more on this later).

Listen to these songs and try to count the beat 

Songs in 3/4:

  • Johann Strauss II - The Blue Danube Waltz

Songs in 5/4:

  • Dave Brubeck - Take Five

Songs in 6/8:

  • Queen - We are the Champions 



1) Name 2 songs you know which have 4 beats in the bar.


2) Can you name a song which uses a different time signature?


3) Write out a 3/4 bar in every type of rhythm we learnt last week? Bellow I have done it for the time signature 5/4.

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