Aspects of Standard Ballroom Music, Part 5, Time Signature – by Chris Bruce

Chris and his wife Monika at a Dancesport competition.

Aspects of Standard Ballroom Music, Part 5, Time Signature

 

DK Ballroom Instructor Chris Bruce

 

In the previous article in this series we looked at how music is divided into groups of beats called bars or measures. But how do we know how many beats are in each bar. To determine this, we need to look at the Time Signature.

The Time Signature describes the number of beats in each bar (or measure) of a piece of music, and the type of beat.

At the beginning of practically any score of music there are numbers and symbols that instruct a musician in how to interpret and play the music notation in the score.

The numbers indicate how to interpret the music’s rhythms, and how to count and keep track of the beat.

The top number in the Time Signature tells us how many beats there are in each bar (or measure) of the music. In the example above, we have 3 beats per bar.

The lower number tells us what kind of note makes up each beat. For all our Standard ballroom dances the lower number is 4, indicating a quarter note or crotchet.

It’s tempting to think that the lower number will tell us how fast the music is – a quarter note will be twice as fast as a half note, which in turn will be twice as fast as a full note. But be aware that all full notes are not created equal. We need to refer also to the Tempo, as the faster the Tempo the shorter each note type will be.

Adding the fact that all our Standard ballroom dances use quarter notes in their Time Signatures to what we learnt in the previous article, i.e. our Standard Ballroom dances have either 2, 3 or 4 beats per measure we come up with these three possible Time Signatures for our dance music.

 

Chris