Discuss the lesson: Intro to Music Theory Part 2- Time Signatures



I hope you have the time to watch my signature lesson on…time signatures.


I don’t understand this 3/4 stuff. If there are three beats in a measure how can each note be a quarter note?


I’ve never thought about it like that. I see where you’re coming from, though. Like they should be called third notes, right? :smile:

It’s a waltz beat, so I always think about a big ballroom full of aristocrats dancing in circles. The beat is 1 2 3, 1 2 3. It’s 3 beats per measure. I guess they just still call them quarter notes.

Not sure if that helps.


I could see where that could be confusing… seems like it should be a “third” note, eh? However it sounds like you understand it better than you think you do. In 3/4 there are indeed three beats a measure and a quarter note is equal to one beat. I think this is like the source of the confusion: the name “quarter” is not for a quarter of a measure, but a quarter of a whole note. The time sig is simply saying that you can put 3 quarter notes in each measure.

Since the most common sig is 4/4, it is easy to think of a “quarter” note representing 1/4 of a measure. That just happens to be true with 4/4.

I hope that helps. If not, let us know and we will take another swing.


That’s a great question. The note has to retain a name, and I think since 4/4 is the most common time signature in western music, it’s universally called the quarter note regardless of time signature. I kind of think of measures like fluctuating markets…the dollar may be worth more or less depending on the day, but we still call it a dollar regardless.

To be clear, both the 3 and the 4 in 3/4 have a meaning. The 3 on top means that a measure is filled with 3 beats. The 4 on bottom tells you what kind of note gets that one beat (1/4 meaning quarter).

But like I said, great question :slight_smile:


I think three of us were simultaneously replying :smile:


Many moons ago. I was taught at primary school the measure of time was counted in beats. The number of beats in a barre. The top number tells you how many the bottom number the duration. 6/8 Mean’s six eighth notes.

Mr G’s Lessons on Theory explains all this.