Hover your mouse over the UK note names to see the USA equivalents.

In Grade Two Music Theory, we have some new time signatures to look at.

  • ABRSM: 2/2, 3/2, 4/2 and 3/8
  • Trinity 2/2, 3/2 and 3/8.

The lower number “2” tells us to count minims.

2/2 means “count two minims per bar”.

2/2 time signature

3/2 means “count three minims per bar”.

3/2 time signature

4/2 means “count four minims per bar”.

4/2 time signature

Sometimes music in 2/2 is written with an old-fashioned time signature which we call “cut common time”. It is a C with a vertical line through it:

cut common time = 2/2

The cut common time signature goes in the same place as a normal modern signature:

music with cut common time signature

And finally, we need to know 3/8.

The lower number 8 tells us to count quavers, so 3/8 means “count three quavers per bar”.

All the time signatures you have learned so far (3/8, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 2/2, 3/2 and 4/2) are simple time signatures.

All simple time signatures have 2, 3 or 4 as their top number. 

Types of Question

In the Grade Two Music Theory exam, you might get a question asking you something like this:

Complete this sentence:
The time signature 2/4 means that there are two ……….. beats in a bar.

The question is asking you what type of note to count as the beat.

Look at the lower number. The lower number is “4”, which means “crotchet” beats. So, the correct answer is “The time signature 2/4 means that there are two crotchet beats in a bar.

Writing Time Signatures

In a typed page like this one, it’s ok to write out time signatures as two numbers with a slash between them, like so – 3/8. But if you write time signatures by hand, don’t write them like this!

On a stave, time signatures should be written one number directly above the other and without a slash or line, like so:

3/4 time signature

 Time signatures are placed at the beginning of the stave, after the clef and key signature. They only appear right at the beginning of a piece (unless there is a change of time signature in the middle of the piece somewhere).


Here are some short tunes using the new time signatures from the grade two music theory syllabus. Click the play buttons to hear them.

time signature 2/2 Walton

time signature 3/2 Corelli

time signature 4/2 Bach

time signature 3/8 Bach

For a complete list of time signatures with examples of how the rhythms are written and grouped, please see our time signatures chart.

Time Signatures Exercises

True or False?

1. The time signature 2/4means that there are 2 minim (half note) beats in a bar.
2. The time signature 4/4means that there are 4 crotchet (quarter note) beats in a bar.
3. The time signature 3/8means that there are 3 semiquaver (16th note) beats in a bar.
4. (ABRSM only) The time signature 4/2means that there are 2 crotchet (quarter note) beats in a bar.

Complete the Sentences

5. The time signature 3-2means that there are three …….. beats in a bar.
6. The time signature 3-4means that there are three …….. beats in a bar.
7. The time signature 2-2means that there are two …….. beats in a bar.
8. The time signature 3-8 means that there are three ……. beats in a bar.