time signature

time signature
a numerical or other indication at the beginning of a piece showing the meter.

* * *

      in musical notation, sign that indicates the metre of a composition. Most time signatures consist of two vertically aligned numbers, such as

, and
. The top figure reflects the number of beats in each measure, or metrical unit; the bottom figure indicates the note value that receives one beat (here, respectively, half note, quarter note, eighth note, and sixteenth note). When measures contain an uneven number of beats falling regularly into two subgroups, the division may be indicated as, for instance,
instead of

      Two other time signatures are common:  (common time, or

) and  (cut time, or alla breve,
). Both derive from symbols of mensural notation (q.v.; used from c. 1260 to 1600), the system preceding the modern one.

      The mensural time signature  indicated a basic unit (tempus) of two notes and the subdivision (prolatio) of these notes into two parts (modern 24 time,

). But  was a proportion sign indicating that the breve (; modern double whole note) should take the time formerly occupied by the semibreve (; modern whole note), hence the name “alla breve.” Other time signatures of mensural notation (and their modern equivalents) were  (
),  (
), and  (

* * *

Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Time signature — (Music) A sign at the beginning of a composition or movement, placed after the key signature, to indicate its time or meter. Also called {rhythmical signature}. It is in the form of a fraction, of which the denominator indicates the kind of note… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • time signature — n. Music a sign consisting of one number over another, esp. after the key signature, indicating the unit of measurement and the number of beats in the following measure or measures (Ex.: 3/4 means three quarter note beats); also, a nonnumerical… …   English World dictionary

  • time signature — time signatures N COUNT The time signature of a piece of music consists of two numbers written at the beginning that show how many beats there are in each bar …   English dictionary

  • time signature — time .signature n two numbers at the beginning of a line of music that tell you how many ↑beats there are in a ↑bar …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • time signature — time ,signature noun count two numbers at the beginning of a line of music that tell you how many beats there are in a MEASURE …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • time signature — ► NOUN Music ▪ an indication of rhythm following a clef …   English terms dictionary

  • Time signature — Common time redirects here. For the short story, see Common Time. Simple example of a 34 time signature: here there are three quarter notes per measure. The time signature (also known as meter signature) is a notational convention used in Western …   Wikipedia

  • time signature — noun a musical notation indicating the number of beats to a measure and kind of note that takes a beat • Syn: ↑musical time signature • Hypernyms: ↑musical notation • Hyponyms: ↑alla breve * * * noun, pl ⋯ tures [count] : a number that is written …   Useful english dictionary

  • time signature — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms time signature : singular time signature plural time signatures music two numbers at the beginning of a line of music that tell you how many beats there are in a bar …   English dictionary

  • time signature — time′ sig nature n. mad a fractional designation given after the key signature in music, the denominator giving the basic note value for the beat and the numerator the number of such notes to the measure • Etymology: 1870–75 …   From formal English to slang

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