Metronome – Inputting different time signature/beat combinations

We have had a few queries on how to set up different time signature/beat combinations in Metronome Beats so I thought I would give a quick explanation of how it works.

To use Metronome Beats (as with any other metronome) you need to know three things about your piece of music:

1. How many beats per minute (BPM) are there?
2. What does each beat represent?
3. How many beats are there per bar?

A lot of music is written in a time signature where each beat represents a crotchet (also known as a quarter note). So, if we start with a simple example:

Example A:    4/4 time signature,  =80

The 4/4 time signature means that there are four crotchet beats per bar, and the tempo indication (usually found at the top of a musical score) means that there are 80 beats per minute and that each beat represents one crotchet (quarter note).  So you would input 80 BPM and 4 beats per bar into Metronome Beats. If you want to hear the metronome play crotchets then you would input a beat subdivision of 1, for quavers (eighth notes) you input 2, and semiquavers (sixteenth notes) input 4.

However, music doesn’t always have a nice and simple 4/4 time signature with each beat representing a crotchet (quarter note). Say we have two pieces of music in 6/8 with different speeds:

Example B:   6/8 and   =80 (80 quaver/eighth note beats per minute)

Example C:   6/8 and  =80 (80 dotted crotchet beats per minute)

Both of these examples have a tempo of 80 beats per minute.  So for both of these you would need to input 80 BPM into Metronome Beats.

But what does each beat represent? In Example B the beats are quavers (eighth notes).  It has a 6/8 time signature, which means that there are six quavers per bar.  So Example B has six quaver beats per bar, and you need to set the beats per bar to 6 in Metronome Beats.

In Example C the beats are dotted crotchets.  It also has a 6/8 time signature (so six quavers per bar).  A dotted crotchet lasts for three quavers, so there are two dotted crotchet beats in each bar of 6/8.  So in this case you need to set the beats per bar to 2 in Metronome Beats.

What about beat subdivisions? If you want Metronome Beats to play quavers (eighth notes), you would put a beat subdivision of 1 for Example B (as the beat is already a quaver in example B) and 3 for Example C (as there are three quavers in each dotted crotchet beat).  For semiquavers (sixteenth notes) the beat subdivisions would be 2 and 6.

Hopefully this makes sense and should be applicable to any metronome. Confusion can sometimes arise when it is assumed that the beats are always crotchets/quarter notes. With Metronome Beats we haven’t made any assumption on this so that you can put in virtually any time signature/beat combination that you want.

I am by no means an expert on this (my past experience comes from playing the cello) so feel free to comment if you disagree!