An introduction to music theory
An introduction to music theory

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An introduction to music theory

Group 2: identifying simple and compound time signatures

Activity 1

When identifying simple and compound time signatures, identify the beat first – is it, for example, a minim? Then count how many beats there are in the bar. Remember, too, to consider the beaming.

Match the time signatures, 3/2, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 6/8, 9/8 to bar numbers 1–6.

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. 3/2

  2. 4/4

  3. 6/8

  4. 3/4

  5. 9/8

  6. 2/4

  • a.Bar 1

  • b.Bar 6

  • c.Bar 5

  • d.Bar 2

  • e.Bar 4

  • f.Bar 3

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = a
  • 2 = d
  • 3 = f
  • 4 = e
  • 5 = c
  • 6 = b


Bar 1:3/2 There are three minim beats in the bar.

Bar 2:4/4 There are four crotchet beats in the bar. Notice that the beaming for the quavers cannot extend across the middle of the bar.

Bar 3:6/8 The beaming shows the first dotted-crotchet beat, and the second consists of a quaver/crotchet rhythm.

Bar 4:3/4 Six quavers in 3/4 can all be beamed together. In 6/8 the beaming of the quavers would have to show the division of the bar into two dotted crotchets: the first three quavers and the last three would be beamed separately.

Bar 5:9/8 The beat is a dotted crotchet and there are three of them.

Bar 6:2/4 Despite the rhythmic complexity, the beaming shows two crotchet beats.

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