Time Signatures / Tempo:
The staff describes frequency and time of each note played. Though the frequencies are absolute, the time is not. To standardize this time, we use, what are known as “Time Signatures.” These are placed after the clef and are written in an X/Y format but it does not indicate a ratio.
A measure is the rhythm unit of the piece of music. For example, “one, two, one, two, one, two....” – for this the measure is the time required to say “one, two”, again for “one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four...” it is “one, two, three, four.” Again, each measure has a certain number of beats. The first example had 2 beats (one and two) while the second had 4. The number of beats in one such measure is denoted by the digit X, while the named note (from the above list), that comprises of that beat is denoted by the digit Y.
The common time signatures are 4/4, 3/4, 2/2, 2/4, etc.
4/4 time (Common time): The time allotted to each metre divided into 4 notes per meter. They may each be subdivided. The total length of the meter would be one whole note. The duration of the whole note in seconds terms is defined in the tempo mark / metronome mark (commonly "quarter note = 30 / 45 / 60 / 90 / etc beats per minute").
3/4 time (Waltz): Similarly - 3 quarter notes per metre; total length of the meter would be 3*.25 note = .75 of a whole note.
2/2 time (Cut-common time): 2 half notes per metre; total length of the meter would be a whole note.
The term “Common Time” indicates 4/4 and “Cut-Common Time” indicates 2/2 and are one of the commonest time signatures used. There are other times, like Compound Time and Additive Time, and are used less often (hence not elaborated).
Now, someone may play this “one, two, three, four” fast, say in one second, while another may play this over four seconds. This time may be fixed by assigning a time value to the note in question in seconds. This is achieved by the metronome mark, mentioned above.
The mark, as above (common), is placed above the clef on the staff.
Continuing to off and on beats...
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