Time signatures question

In time signatures how is the bottom number determined?

Jun 19, 2015

2 Answers


Hey there,

In time signatures, the top number represents how many beats in a bar. The bottom number represents what type of beat it is.

So with the bottom number, a quarter-note (crotchet) is '4'. An eighth-note (quaver) is '8'. A sixteenth-note (semi-quaver) is 16 and so on.

So these time signatures mean 3 beats in the bar, but the type of beat is determined by the bottom number:

enter image description here

See how there's the same number of beats in each bar (3 in this case), but the type of beat is different.

Hope that helps,


Jun 19, 2015

The bottom number of the time signature is essentially the denominator of a fraction representing that note's duration relative to a whole note (semibreve).

As described above, 3/4 time means there are three beats of a quarter note (crotchet) in each measure. A quarter note is 1/4 the duration of a whole note (semibreve). That's where the four comes from. 3/8 time means there are three beats of an eighth note (quaver) in each measure. An eighth note is 1/8 the duration of a whole note. That's where the 8 comes from. Same idea for the 3/16. And so on. All of the notes from the whole note and smaller are be depicted this way (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, etc.) and any notes larger than a whole note do not make sense since they would be less than one.

Aug 10, 2016

Your Answer:

Do you know the answer? Please login to contribute!