In your music theory exam you will probably be asked to work out the time signature of a bar or bars.

in Grade Two, there are only three possibilities for the top number. Your top number will always be 2, 3 or 4.

Remember that the lower number of the time signature tells you the type of beats you need to count. In Grade Two, there are only three possibilities:

• 2 = minims (half notes)
• 4 = crotchets (quarter notes)
• 8 = quavers (eighth notes)

This means the answer can only be one of these time signatures:  3/8, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 2/2, 3/2 or 4/2. (4/2 is ABRSM only for grade 2)

To work out the time signature, you need to find the type of note which has been used for the beat, and then work out how many of them are in one bar.

You could start by counting the crotchets (quarter notes). If there are 2, 3 or 4 crotchet beats in the bar, then you have found your answer. If there are fewer than 2 or more than 4, then you will need to count quavers (8th notes) or minims (half notes) instead.

Here are some examples.

If we count the crotchets (quarter notes) we would find there are 1.5. There are less than 2, so we should try again, but count quavers (8th notes) this time. There are 3 quavers’ worth here, so the time signature is 3/8.

If we count the crotchets (quarter notes) here, we will find there are 6. There are more than 4, so we should try again, but count minims (half notes). There are 3 minims’ (half notes) worth here, so the time signature is 3/2,

If we count the crotchets (quarter notes) here, we will find there are 3. The time signature is 3/4.

## 2/2 or 4/4?

You might be wondering what the difference is between 4/4 and 2/2, as they have exactly the same number of beats per bar?

Well, the answer is, not much! In the Grade Two music theory exam these two time signatures are completely interchangeable.

When you are listening to music in 2/2, you might be able to hear that there are two beats per bar, whereas in 4/4 there are four beats, but it’s quite difficult for most people to tell the difference.

## Time Signatures Exercises

Add the time signature to each of these tunes.

a.

b.

c.

d.