Phase 1 - Time Signature In Music

Learn what time signature is and how different time signatures can affect the delivery of your song's rhythmic beat.

What Is Time Signature?

Time Signature -

Time signature (or timing) establishes the "character" of your rhythmic pattern.

Think of time signature  as "the # of beats in the pattern before it repeats" . It's one of the three pieces that combines to create your unique rhythm (see "beats & rhythm" page).

Genre & Style Of Music

When choosing a time signature, it's important to ask yourself "what type of song am I creating?" Are you making doo-wop, house music, a ballad, etc?

The # of beats that repeat in your rhythmic pattern is called a "bar".

Because certain time signatures are used to create specific styles, the style of song you choose to make will set how many beats are in each bar, setting part of your rhythm.

The chart below will give you a general idea of how certain time signatures relate to certain styles of music. Listen to the example songs and see if you can hear the timing.

For now, when looking at time signatures only look at the top number. That tells you the # of beats a pattern will have before repeating.

Time Signature Style
4/4 Western ("common") Dance Music
12/8 Doo-wop
7/4 Feels like 4/4 + 3/4
5/4 4/4 w/skip beat
7/8 Feels like 4/8 + 3/8
3/4 Waltz (ballroom), Ballad
6/8 Doo-wop, Marches, double-jigs (waltz w/backbeat)


Time Signature Common Genres
4/4 Pop, Hip-Hop, R&B, Rock, Country, Gospel
12/8 Classical, Rock, Slow Blues, Pop
7/4 Rock & Roll, Alternative Rock
5/4 Ballad, Alternative Rock, Jazz
7/8 Hard Rock, Alternative Rock
3/4 Country, Contemporary, Classical, Gospel, Soundtracks
6/8 Pop, Contemporary Rock


Time Signature Example Songs
4/4 "Circles" by Post Malone, "The Box" by Roddy Ricch, "High Hopes" by Panic! At The Disco
12/8 "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" by Tears for Fears, "Stockholm Syndrome" by One Direction
7/4 "Money" by Pink Floyd, "Them Bones" by Alice In Chain
5/4 "Frogman" by Winterland Jets, "Take Five" by David Brubeck
7/8 "Estimated Prophet" by Grateful Dead
3/4 "Home" Foo Fighters, "Here, My Dear" by Marvin Gaye
6/8 "Gravity" by John Mayer, "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica,

Remember, it's the unique rhythm (i.e. beat pattern) we're focused on not the melody.

Learn How To Count Beats In Bars

Let's go into more detail about time signatures & understanding rhythm by learning how to count in bars. Join my free training group to learn everything about songwriting in 8 weeks.

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- Jeezy

Updated: April 3, 2020

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