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Sheet Music Theory: Simple And Compound Time Signatures

Aug 27, 2008
After learning simple music theory such as the different types of notes and what the stave, time signature and clef symbols are you are then ready to delve further into learning about the different types of time that are found in music. Put simply the three types are simple, compound and irregular times. Simple time is the easiest to identify.

In simple time the top number will always be a 2,3 or 4 denoting that there will be that many beats per bar. This is very straight forward and is easy for beginning music students to pick up making it a good choice for beginner bands. The next type of time, compound, is also relatively easy to distinguish. It will be a number that is greater than four, but at the same time it must be divisible by three.

When you examine compound time you will notice that the notes will normally be grouped in threes. One example of this can be found in 6/8 time where you will find two groups of three eighth notes each. You can also find many different combinations of these. You might find two quarter notes and two eighth notes together in one bar or you might find two dotted quarter notes. You could also find a dotted half note.

While this may seem rather easy in and of itself it can be a bit tricky. If you were only counting the beats in slow music you would find it rather easy. Faster music can be a good deal harder however. It is much easier to just count the eighth note groups as if they were just one big beat. This means that in a rapidly moving piece of sheet music written in 6/8 time you would have two separate pulses.

The first one will be on the first of the eighth notes and will be a strong one. The second will be lighter and will hit on the fourth of the eighth notes. This will leave you with two countable beats for each bar. Each of these two beats will then be able to divide into three. This benefit to 6/8 time is what helps it to be an almost perfect marching tempo. As a matter of fact, many of the early 20th century military marches were written in this time signature.

Most of the time you will find 6/8 time described as having two dotted quarter notes per bar rather than having six eighth notes per bar. Some of the other compound time signatures include 12/8 and 9/8 time. In 12/8 time you will find four groups total. This means there would be four dotted quarter notes for each bar. In 9/8 time you will find three groups of three eighth notes which will be represented by three dotted quarter notes for each bar.

The last type of time is irregular time. The top number will always be higher than four but it must not be divisible by three. Some examples of irregular time signatures includes 7/4 and 5/8 time. Note that the top numbers are both higher than four but three will definitely not divide into them
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Victor Epand is an expert consultant for guitars, drums, keyboards, sheet music, guitar tab, and home theater audio. You can find the best marketplace at these sites for guitars, drums, keyboards, teaching sheet music, guitar tab, and home theater audio.
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