discovering time signature for beginners

Discovering Time Signature for Beginners Lesson 4

Discovering Time Signature for Beginners

Every piece of music has a pulse or a count that keeps it in time. The number of beats in each measure usually remains the same in the entire piece. This underlying beat per measure is called TIME SIGNATURES or METER SIGNATURES. This article provides a simple and clear explanation about discovering time signature for beginners.

A Time Signature is made up of two numbers. It always appears at the beginning of every piece of music. Below is an example of what time signatures look like.

Note: Remember, these numbers are not fractions so we do not read them like fractions. We simply say four-four and not four- fourth.

What the numbers mean

There are two sets of information that time signatures give us.

  • The number above tells us how many beats there are in a measure
  • The number below tells us what type of note receives one beat.

Take, for example, this image of a four-four time signature. The number 4 above tells us that there are four beats in every measure. The figure below tells us that a quarter note receives one beat, or you can say that there are four quarter notes in a measure

The image above is also called a common time signature. A common time signature can also be replaced with C in the staff.

Let us look at another example of a time signature

This is a three-eight time signature. The number above tells us that there are three (3) beats in a measure. The number eight below represents an eight-note and tells us that an eight-note receives one beat. You can also say that there are three eight notes per measure.

The image below shows a three-four time signature. A three-four time signature means 3 quarter notes per measure. The number 4 represents a quarter note. Hence, a quarter note gets one count in a three-four time signature.

Discovering time signature for beginners

Simple Meters

Our discussion so far focuses on simple meters or simple time signatures. It means that all of our meters can be subdivided into two (2).

The upper numbers of simple meters usually are 2, 3 and 4 basic pulses. Let us look at the image below to show you what I mean

Here we have an image of a three-four time signature which can be divided into a group of eight notes or sixteenth notes. The first subdivision is a subdivision of 2 eight notes for every one-quarter note. The last part of the image shows a subdivision of 4 sixteenth notes for every quarter note.

Let us look at another example.

The image above shows a three-two time signature. It means that there are three beats per measure but a half note receives one beat. A half note can be divided into two (2) quarter notes or four (4) eight notes.

The basic pulse of every simple meter is something that notes a dotted note.

Counting Method For Simple Meters

Counting a simple time signature for beginners. It is helpful to know how to count your meters. A good and effective way is to count aloud and clap the rhythm at the same time.

The value of doing such a method is that it transfers your counting to your brain until everything is just mental.

Although there are several systems out there on teaching you how to count simple meters, I would recommend the following.

Simply count and clap the basic pulses until you are comfortable doing it. Remember to keep the tempo steady.

This image is an example of a three-two time signature. Clap and count aloud until you are comfortable doing it.

Now, when you are presented with eight notes, you just count as presented in the image above. You use the word “and” in between the numbers of your count.

You can see in the example above the use of the word “and” in between the numbers to count in a three-two time signature using quarter notes.

When counting sixteenth notes, you can employ the use of the added letters e and a. This will help you count your time signature when using sixteenth notes.

Compound Time Signatures or Meters

In compound meter, each pulse is a dotted note, which is divided into groups of three parts – a compound subdivision.

The image above gives us an example of a six-eight time signature which is a compound time signature. A six-eight time signature is equal to 2 dotted quarter notes per measure.

Remember dotted notes? My discussion on Notes and Rests clearly explains what dotted notes are. Head over there if you need to.

Just a review, a dot before a note add half of the value of that note. Refer to the image above.

Note: In a compound meter, the basic pulses will be some kind of dotted notes.

In a 6/8 meter, there are two basic pulses, in a 9/8 meter there are three and a 12/8 meter has four basic pulses.

Duple, Triple and Quadruple Meters

Both the simple and compound meter will have two, three and four recurring pulses. A meter is considered duple if it has two basic pulses. A meter is called triple if it has three basic pulses, and a quadruple meter has four basic pulses.

Counting Method For Compound Time Signatures

Remember how we counted simple meters? The same applies to count compound meters. We use the same numbers except that the notation is different.

Let me show you an example.

The example above shows a compound meter of six-eight (6/8) and is subdivided into two basic pulses – 2 dotted quarter notes.

A 6/8 meter means there are six eighth notes in a measure. A dotted quarter note in a 6/8 meter is equal to three eight notes.

Asymmetrical Time Signatures or Meters

Asymmetrical means not equal or is not symmetric. These are meters that cannot be divided into two, three, or four primary pulses. The upper numbers of an asymmetrical meter are usually 5 or 7.

Here is an additional source for discovering time signature for beginners. Did you find this article on discovering time signature for beginners helpful?

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accidentals in music

Intervals and Accidentals In Music Lesson 3

Accidentals in music – this article discusses the lesson on accidentals and intervals. You must learn previous topics before this discussion to better understand the materials in this article. You may read the topic about rest and note values or the fundamentals of music theory.

By the end of this discussion is a quiz to assess your understanding of the topic. I urge you to take the quiz and see how well you have understood everything that this article covers.

Understanding Accidentals in Music

Accidentals are symbols placed before a note to indicate the raising or lowering of a pitch. The use of the word accidentals started around the year 1651. I find it also a bit weird why they would call it accidentals when the change in pitch is deliberate.

  • Sharp – raises the note a half step
  • Flat – lowers the note a half step
  • Natural Sign – cancels the previous sharp or flat sign and returns to the natural, unaltered pitch
  • Double Sharp – raises the note a whole step or two half steps
  • Double Flat – lowers the note a whole step or two half steps

Here is an example of how accidentals are used.

Putting an accidental after the note is too late and is the wrong way of writing music. Placing accidentals before the note makes it easier to read the notation.

The effect of an accidental symbol stops at the measure where it appears. However, within the measure, this symbol affects the note in whichever octave.

Once the measure is passed, the accidental is no longer valid, returning the state of the notes in concurrence with the key signature.


Accidentals in music open up so many other topics and notions in music theory. Starting with intervals.

Interval is the relationship or distance between two tones or pitches. In western music, the half step is the smallest interval.

Always remember that the letter C can be found adjacent to two black keys. You can then identify other notes on the keyboard once you have identified where your letter C is.

Whole Tones and Semitones

A semitone or a half step is any two adjacent keys on the keyboard. Below is an illustration of how a staff notation is located in the keyboard of a piano.

A whole tone or whole step is made up of two semitones. On the keyboard, a whole tone is any two keys with one white or black key in between.

Note: It is important to note that between the adjacent degrees (i.e., semitones), there are no white or black keys. For example, the distance between C and D is not a semitone because there is a black key that separates the two keys.

Chromatic and Diatonic Semitones

A diatonic semitone is composed of two sounds following each other and not bearing the same name.

diatonic semitone
diatonic semitone

The image shown above is a diatonic semitone. Each measure shows two sounds following each but is not the same letter name.

A chromatic semitone is composed of two notes with the same letter name with one being altered by an accidental.

Enharmonic Equivalents

Enharmonic Equivalents are tones that have the same pitch but have different spelling (written differently).

Look at the image above on the first measure. You have two notes, a C sharp and a D flat. If you look at a keyboard, a C sharp and a D flat is found on the same key. Use the keyboard below for reference.

This concludes our topic for accidentals in music and intervals. The knowledge of interval will later lead us to the study of triads and harmonies.

Visit this website to see a more in-depth explanation of accidentals.

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a clear way to explain notes and rests

A Clear Way To Explain Notes and Rests Lesson 2

A clear way to explain notes and rests

This article will explain notes and rests in music. If you haven’t read the article on the fundamentals of music theory, I strongly recommend that you read it first before continuing with this article.

This article discusses the concepts of notes and rests. Their functions and how they are used in music notation. So, let’s get right into these musical notes and rests.

Notes in Music

To explain notes and rests, we need to pick them apart. First let’s start with notes.

The notes you see on a staff have two main functions

  • Pitch – how high or low the sound of a note is.
  • Beat or Rhythm – how long or how short a note’s duration is.

Types of Notes

For someone who wants to learn how to read music notation, remembering the faces and names of these note symbols is very important.

Assuming that we are in a common time signature (I’ll explain in another article) the following holds true.

  • Whole Note – 4 counts or beats
  • Half Note – 2 counts or beats
  • Quarter Note – 1 count or beat
  • Eight note – 1/2 count or beat
  • Sixteenth note – 1/4 count or beat

Starting from a whole note which has 4 counts or beats, it would take two (2) half notes to create one whole note.

It would take two (2) quarter notes to create one (1) half note, and 4 quarter notes to make two half notes.

If we make a diagram base on the number of beats listed above, the structure would look something like this.

If you analyze the structure, every group of notes is a subdivision of 2 from it’s previous note with a bigger value. Look at the image below to see what I mean.

Every note with a smaller value is a subdivision of 2 from the previous note with a bigger value.

Parts of A Note and Beams

A note consists of three main parts – the note head, the stem and the flag. A whole note is only made up of a note head.

Parts of a note

To simplify our reading of note values or duration, we will use beams to connect the steams of a note.

Beams are used to avoid writing too many note flags. It also makes reading easier.

Quiz on About Note Values

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Musical Rest and Their Values

Music is not all about sound, it also involves silence or rest. The use of rest makes music more interesting. You wouldn’t want to hear a singer sing without stopping. The singer does need to take a break every now and then.

Let’s find more of this clear way to explain notes and rests.

Types of Rests

Notes have their equivalent rests. These are the different types of rest.

  • Whole rest – 4 counts or beats
  • Half rest – 2 counts or beats
  • Quarter rest – 1 count or beat
  • Eight rest – 1/2 count or beat
  • Sixteenth rest – 1/4 count or beat

It takes two (2) half rests to equal the value of a whole rest.

It takes two (2) quarter rests to equal the value of a half rest. It also takes four (4) quarter rests to make 2 half rests.

Following the mathematical subdivision of rests, we are lead to this this diagram.

The diagram shows us that just like notes, rests are subdivided by two counts when we go lower into the picture. Unlike notes, rests don’t have stems and flags, so you can’t beam them together.

Dotted Notes and Rest

So far, we’ve covered the regular subdivisions of the value of notes and rests. There is another symbol that affects the value or duration of a note or a rest. It is the dot placed after a note or a rest.

A dot adds half of the value of a given note. Let us look at an example.

a dotted whole note

The image above is a dotted whole note. From our previous discussion, a whole note gives a value of 4 counts or beat. A dot adds have the value of the whole note. Half of 4 is 2.

Hence, the value of a dotted whole note is 6 counts.

Let’s look at another example.

a dotted half note

The image above shows a dotted half note. There are 2 counts to a half note. Adding a dot to half note means adding half of the value of a half note which is a quarter note or 1. So, a dotted half note is equal to 3 counts or beats.

Dots can also be added to rests. Here is an example.

a dotted quarter rest

We can see from the image above that a dotted quarter rest is equal to a quarter rest plus an eight rest. One (1) beat plus 1/2 beat is 1 and a half.

A second dot can be added

Yes, you can add another dot after the first dot. It means that we add half of the value of the first dot.

2 added dots to a note or rest

Quiz About Rests

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For teachers, this is a clear way to explain notes and rests, here’s an additional source of information about this topic. If you find this article helpful, don’t forget to give it a like and leave a comment.

fundamentals of music theory

The Easiest Way To Learn The Fundamentals Of Music Theory 2020

Fundamentals of Music Theory

Many thinks that reading music is hard. In my experience, it’s not. It only takes a few minutes of your time to understand the basic concept of standard music notation. What takes time is the sight reading skills of an individual.

This article discusses the fundamental elements of music notation and ends with a quiz. I strongly recommend you take the quiz at the end of this article.

The Staff

Music is written on a staff (plural staves) which is five (5) horizontal lines on top of each other. These lines create four (4) spaces in between them.

Blank Staff
Blank Staff

These lines and spaces are numbered from the bottom up.

Remember this! – When things are being counted in music, staff lines, degrees of a scale, intervals and even the strings of a guitar, they are always counted from the bottom up.

Bar Lines, Double Bar Lines, and Measures

The staff can be divided into smaller sections for the purpose of making it easier to read. The lines that divide the staff into small sections is called Bar Lines.

There are two types of bar lines – single bar line and double bar line.

Think of bar lines as punctuation marks: you don’t hear them but you see them making it easier for you to read. The spaces or sections between bar lines are called measures. You can also call them bars. To avoid confusion, we can just call them measures.


Ledger Lines

Most notes are written inside the staff, but some notes go high above the staff or even below the staff. When this happens, you will see small lines drawn above or below the staff – these lines are called ledger lines.

Ledger lines make it easier for us to identify the notes that are above or below the staff.


Space Notes and Line Notes

The notes on a staff will either fall on a line or a space. Notes that have lines through them are called line notes while notes that are in between lines are called space notes.

Notes that are between ledger lines are also called space notes while those that have ledger lines drawn across them are also called line notes.

space notes
line notes

Remember, space and line notes alternate one after the other. After a line note is always a space note and after a space note is a line note.



Webster defines pitch as the property of a sound and especially a musical tone that is determined by the frequency of the waves producing it. Not really helpful for beginners who are learning the fundamentals of music theory.

What that means is that pitch is the highness or lowness of a sound or a note.

It’s very easy to identify pitch on the staff. If a pitch of a note is higher than another note, then it will be written higher on the staff. If the pitch of a note is lower than another note, then it will be written lower on the staff.



Clef is a french word which means key. Clefs are the symbols you see in the beginning of a staff. Clefs didn’t show up until around the mid 1500s.

In early music, a letter was written at the beginning of a plainchant. Around 1000 AD, someone thought of drawing a line from the letter all the way across the page. Then a guy called Guido De Arizzo added more lines and now we have four of them.

Overtime, the letter just became the symbol we now know of as clefs.

G clef or Treble Clef

The G clef or Treble clef is an ornate letter G. What that means is that it came from the letter G and overtime transformed into the G clef we now know of.

F clef or Bass Clef

The f clef or bass clef was derived from the letter F. The bass clef establishes the note F on the staff – on the 4th line. The dots are place below and above the 4th line indicating that it’s the letter F.

The Grand Staff

Together, the bass clef and the treble clef combined makes the grand staff.

Letter Names

Notes on the staff are named after the first seven letters of the alphabet.

Here is an image showing the letter names and the use of ledger lines.

How to identify letter names on the staff

There is a technique to help you read and remember the letter names on the staff much easier. Our goal in learning all of these symbols of the fundamentals of music theory is to be able to read the notes on the staff.

Notes on Lines and Spaces for the Treble or G clef

For the G staff (staff with a g clef) remember the words Every, Good, Boy, Does Fine and take only the first letters of it. The first line is E, the second line G, the third line B, the fourth line D and the 5th line F.

For spaces, just remember the letters of the word FACE. The first space is F, the second space is A, the third space is C, and the fourth space is E.

Notes on Lines and Spaces for the Bass or F Clef

For the F staff (staff with an f clef) remember the words Good, Boys, Deserve, Fudge, Always. The first line will be G, the second line B, the third line D, the fourth line F, and the fifth line A. As for notes on the spaces remember the words All Cars Eat Gas. The first space is A, the second space C, the third space E, and the fourth space G.

You can check my blog for other interesting contents. A good resource to follow-up our discussion about the fundamentals of music theory is in this link.

Did you find this article (fundamentals of music theory) helpful? How well did you do with the quiz? Let me know what you think by writing a comment below.