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.


When I think of a waltz beat, to me, it seems the 1 has a slightly longer time than the 2 and 3. Is that true or is it just because we emphasize the 1?


No, all three beats technically should be the same length but the first is usually accented which creates that illusion. Now some people might not play it equally but that is not technically proper imho