Understanding 4/4, 4/8, 7/4, and 7/8 Time!

time-signatureThe 4/4/, 4/8, 7/4 and 7/8 are different types of time signatures. There are others in addition to these, of course. A time signature is also known as a measure signature or a meter signature; it refers to a notational rule employed in Western musical notation, and the function is to spell out the number of pulses or beats that should be featured in each bar, as well as the note value that should be assigned to a beat.

The time signature is seen right at the starting point of the piece in a musical score and is represented with a time symbol. It can also be represented by stacked numerals.

Types of Time Signatures.

There are a wide varieties of time signatures; the determining factors include whether the music is in accordance with simple rhythms, or whether the music requires uncommon shifting tempos, including simple structures like 3/4 or 4/4, or a compound structure such as 9/8 or 12/8, a mixed structure such as 5/8 & 3/8 or 6/8 & 3/4…and so on.

Simple Time Signatures.

Simple time signatures are made up of two numerals, e.g. 2/4 – one numeral stacked above the other. The lower numeral (which is 4 in our example above) stands for one beat, while the numeral on top or upper numeral stands for the number of such beats grouped as one in a bar. For example; 2/4 denotes 2-quarter note beats for each bar; 3/8 denotes 3 eighth-note — quaver— beats in a bar. The well known among the simple time signatures are the 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4.

 4/4 and 4/8 Time Signature.

4/4 Time: This time signature simply denotes count four (the number on top) quarter notes to each or every bar. As a result, you will count the beat or pulse as 1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4 etc. In essence, the entire notes in every bar should (a must) add up to four quarter notes. You can use any rhythms combination, what matters is for them to add up to four quarter notes. Here’s an instance; each bar may feature one (1) half note, one (1) quarter note rest, as well as two (2) eighth notes. All together, they will total to four (4) quarter notes.

It is not possible to have more or less than the total or aggregate of the number of pulses/beats in the 4/4 time signature.

4/8 Time: 4/8 time signature (in place of 2/4) particularly does not have any historical relevance. Therefore, it may be okay for you to apply it any context of your choice. Here’s what most musicians would do with this time signature; if more importance is attached to the eight note, or the tempo/rhythm feels nicer with 4/8, they rather go with it.

Basically, 4/8 is one of the simple quadruple time signatures. 4/8 equals four quavers for each bar. The other time signatures in the category of simple quadruple are the 4/2, and the 4/4 (described above).

7/4 and 7/8 Time Signature.

7/4 and 7/8 time are examples of the Septuple meter or time signature. In this type of time meter, each bar is divided into seven (7) notes with the same (equal) duration, typically 7/4 or 7/8. The different stress patterns may include 2+2+3, or sometimes 2+3+2.

Here I am playing along to a song that is in 7/4 and 4/4.

These time signatures aren’t counted the same way as the commonly used 4/4 drum beats. However, quarter notes are engaged in counting the beat, but each measure includes seven instead of four.
Now, when it comes to making beats with the 7/8, you are allowed to assume 4/4/ to be 8/8. Subsequently, when you strike out one note from 8/8, what you have is 7/8. So, when you take away a single eight note from any of the 4/4 time pattern, it will result in a completely new one in the 7/8 time signature.

Other time signatures include the following:

The 2/2 time: This is known as duple time, or cut time. It is applied in marches, as well as fast orchestra pieces of music. The 2/2 occurs often in musical theater. Sometimes, you can get the same effect by simply marking a 4/4 time “in 2”

The 2/4 Time: The 2/4 is also in the category of duple time signature. It is applied in marches or polkas. If you slice the 4/4 time into half, what you will have left is just two 2 quarter note beats for each measure.

The rhythm you get with the 2/4 is close to the rhythm that ensues when you march with your feet.