Online Metronome




First Note

Tuplet Note

Time Signatures Explained

A proper understanding of time signatures is essential for using a metronome accurately. Time signatures are located at the start of a musical piece, following the clef and key signature. They comprise of two numerical values:

  • The upper number denotes the quantity of beats in a measure.
  • The lower number indicates the note value that represents a single beat. For instance, "2" corresponds to a half note, "4" signifies a quarter note, "8" represents an eighth note, and so forth.
It's important to note that this explanation is specifically to simple time signatures. Time signatures can be categorized into two primary types: simple and compound.

Within simple time signatures, each beat is subdivided into equal parts. Some of the commonly used simple time signatures include 2/4, 3/4, 4/4.

In contrast, compound time signatures divide each beat into parts that can be either equal or unequal. These are identified by an upper number, often 6, 9, or 12. The typical lower number in a compound time signature is 8.

To summarize, here are several common examples of time signatures:

TimeTypeBeats per Measure
1/4Simple1 quarter notes per measure
2/4Simple2 quarter notes per measure
3/4Simple3 quarter notes per measure
4/4Simple4 quarter notes per measure
5/4Simple5 quarter notes per measure
6/4Compound6 quarter or 2 dotted half notes
7/4Simple7 quarter notes per measure
5/8Compound5 eighth notes (pairs of 2 - 3)
6/8Compound6 eighth notes (pairs of 3 - 3)
7/8Compound7 eighth notes (pairs of 2 - 2 - 3)
9/8Compound9 eighth notes (pairs of 3 - 3 - 3)
12/8Compound12 eighth notes (pairs of 3 - 3 - 3 - 3)

What is Swing Percentage

Swing percentage is an expression of the rhythmic relationship between two 8th notes in a beat.

A common example would be 66%, the so-called "triplet swing". The first 8th note takes up two-thirds (66%) of the quarter beat's time, so it's basically a quarter note followed by an 8th note. A 75% swing percentage would be a dotted quarter note followed by an 8th note.

We could say that the first 8th note takes up as much as the swing percentage's time from the quarter beat, and the second 8th note takes the rest. Going by this logic, we could create a "reverse swing" by going below 50%, and 50% would be just straight 8th notes, no swing at all so to speak.

Explanation video

Some commonly used swing percentages are:

  • 57% - Septuplet Swing
  • 60% - Quintuplet Swing
  • 66% - Triplet Swing