Lesson 50

Time Signature, Measures & Barlines

You must be logged in to comment.

Loading comments

Hello and welcome back. I'm Joseph Hoffman. Today we're going to be taking a closer look at the rhythm of "Listen for Bells" from way back in unit one, but trust me, there's a good reason we're going back to "Listen for Bells" because it will help us uncover the secrets of a new rhythm term called time signature, so let's come to the heartbeat mat to get started. Here I have noted the rhythm of "Listen for Bells" which we figured out in a previous lesson, but let's refresh your memory by singing through it once. Can you point to each beat with me and let's sing the words. Listen for bells in the steeple to ring. Then we do it again, ding-ding-ding-ding-ding ding-ding-ding-ding-ding. Good, now remember we've got our dotted half note here which last for all three of these beats. Ding. The rest of the notes we have all quarter notes. Now today we're going to figure out something about how beats work in music. There are patterns of strong beats and weaker beats. Listen to these first three beats and tell me if you can tell which of these first three is the strongest beat. Listen for. Could you point to the beat you think is the strongest sound. Listen for. If you pointed to the first beat you're correct, and words kind of have a natural strength, if you say the word "listen" there's a natural strength on that first syllable. You wouldn't say li-STEN or listen FOR, it sounds most natural to go, listen for, with a strong beat right here. Now let's look at the next three beats. Tell me if you can tell where the strong beat is in this group. Bells in the. Listen again. Bells in the. Where's the strong beat? Once again it was the first beat of the group of three. Now let's keep on going. Steeple to. Where did you hear the strong beat? Once again it was the first of this group of three. How about ring? This was kind of obvious. This 1st beat has the most strength because that's where the note occurs, and then these next 2 beats it's just sustaining. So you're probably noticing a pattern. The beats are actually arranged in groups of three in this song. Every three beats there's a strong beat. Listen for bells in the steeple to ring. The way we show groups of strong and weak beats is by using what's called bar lines. Bar lines are little vertical lines that will be placed in the music in between a recurring number of beats. In this song it's every three beats there's a bar line, and almost all music is arranged this way in groups, recurring groups of strong and weak beats, and the first beat is always the strongest, so this bar line is kind of a signal to you that that next beats going to be strong. Now let's this time instead of singing the words to "Listen for bells" can you count one, two, three with me, actually sing it to the tune of "Listen for bells" but let's point and every time we say a beat one we'll sing it a little extra strong. Ready, try it with me counting, 123 123 123 123 123 Very good, so one new term we have so far today is bar line. Every one of these vertical lines is a bar line. Bar lines separate beats into what are called measures. One measure is a group of beats in between two bar lines, so here's one measure, here's another measure, here's the third measure, and here's a fourth measure. So right now we're looking at four measures worth of beats, and actually there usually isn't a bar line at the start of a piece. We'd usually place here a time signature. A time signature always consists of two fancy-looking numbers stacked right over each other, and the signature is always placed at the beginning of the score, right after the clef. The top number tells you how many beats per measure, so once again for "Listen for bells" that's why this top number is 3, because we have three beats in every measure. Now I've changed out my time signature for a 2/4 time signature. This top number two now tells us that there will be two beats in every measure with the bar lines separating it out. This rhythm happens to be The Wild Horses" and you'll hear the strong beat at the start of every measure. Listen. This is the dance of the wild and running horses. You feel how that first beat is the strong one? It wouldn't sound good to go, this is the dance of the, sounds kind of awkward. It's this is the dance of the wild and running horses. This time the strong and weak beats are in groups of two. Here's another song you know, and this time what's our time signature? It's 4/4. This top number four is telling us what? It has four beats in every measure. 1 2 3 4 beats and then a bar line. And what about this measure? Is this a full measure? No, it's only two beats, which means our measure isn't done, which is why there's no bar line here. Measures can actually go off one line and continue on to this line. We have beats one, two, three, four, bar line, then four more beats, one, two, three, four, bar line. Let's see if you can guess what song this is. bah-bah-bah-bah bah-bah-bah-bah bah-bah-bah-bah bah-bah-bah-bah. That's right, it's five woodpeckers. It's also possible to have lots of other time signatures. There's 5/4, you can even have 10/4, or 19/4. Excuse me, Mr. Hoffman? Yes, Princess? Well, you explain the top number of time signature very nicely... Yeah, the top number tells you, what was it? How many beats... Oh, right how many beats, in every measure. Right, but Scuba and I were wondering what the bottom number means. Yeah. Well, I don't really want you to worry about the bottom number because for your first year or two of piano lessons it's always going to be the number four. So for now, let's just focus on the top number. But Mr. Hoffman, why is it always a four? What does that even mean? I have a curious mind. Yeah, we really want to know. It's kind of complicated and advanced I really think it's going to be confusing. Tell us what it means, please? Okay guys. I'll gladly explain since you asked. Yay! Well, the bottom number signifies what kind of note equals one beat. Ah. Let me explain a little better. We've been saying all along that a quarter note equals one beat and a half note equals two beats, but this is really only true when there's a four on the bottom. It's that number on the bottom tells you what kind of note equals a beat, and when there's a four on the bottom that means a quarter note equals one beat. So 4/4 written another way you could just say it's four quarter note beats per measure. When you have 3/4 in your time signature that's saying there's going to be three quarter note beats per measure, but when you change the bottom number to something else, for example let's say 3/8, that's telling you that it's going to be three eighth note beats per measure, and all of these values now double. A quarter note is now equal to two beats, a half note is going to be equal to four beats. You can even have a two on the bottom, like let's take 4/2 time, so now it's four half note beats per measure, or you can have a 16 on the bottom. You can have 11/16 which means there's going to be eleven sixteenth notes per measure. The bottom number tells you what kind of note gets one beat there are you satisfied guys? Made perfect sense to me! Really? Well, I think we're ready to move on, Mr. Hoffman. Okay, so like I said for now please just assume the bottom number is going to be four, and just worry about that top number, which tells you what? The top number tells you the number of beats in every measure. That's right, the number of beats in every measure. Here's the rhythm of another song you know. I left off the time signature, but I did put in the bar lines so you can see how big the measures are. Looking at this can you guess, or figure out I should say, the time signature? Try to tell me the time signature for this song. Since you can see there are two beats in every measure our time signature would be 2/4. Remember the top number will tell us the beats, bottom number for now is always going to be 4. By the way this is a song you know. It's "Love Somebody." buh-bup-bup-bup bup-bup-buh, buh-bup-bup-bup-bup-bup-buh. Let's try another one. Here's another rhythm with bar-lines. Can you figure out the time signature for this example? If you count the beats you'll see we have one two three four five beats, then a bar line, then another one two three four five beats, then a bar line, which would be a 5/4 time signature. Five quarter note beats. Here's another rhythm for you. Can you figure out the time signature? You can see we have four beats here, one two three four, bar-line, one two three four, bar-line, one two three four, this time a double bar line, which is traditional to put at the end of a song to know when you get to the very end. Four beats per measure tells us we have a 4/4 time signature. All right, this time I've given you the time signature, but I haven't put in the bar lines. That's going to be your job. Can you point to where I should put in the first bar line? Given that our time signature is 3/4. If you're pointing here, you're correct. Three beats, one two three, then a bar line. Point to the next bar line. That's right, it's here, and point to the next bar line, it's going to be right here, and our final bar line right here, and so I'll use a double bar line. Here's our last one with a 4/4 time signature. Can you point to where the first bar line should go? If you're pointing right here you're correct. One two three four beats, then a bar line. Where should the next bar line go? We have one two three four more beats, then a bar line, and where should the next bar line go? That's right, and it's our last one so we'll use a double bar line to say we're done. Great job learning about time signature today. For even more practice with rhythms and time signatures you can download the complete materials for this unit from our website. Thanks for watching and see you next time. Okay, I think I got it now. So you take the top number divided by the square root of the bottom number... No, no, no, I know, you take the bottom number, add a dotted sixteenth note, and then multiply by the common denominator of the integral of the top number... No, no, you substitute and then carry the one and you get a big wonderful scribbly musical mess! It all makes sense now. Thank you Mr. Hoffman! Thank you!