Metronome – Inputting different time signature/beat combinations

Posted on April 18, 2013

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,  crotchet=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   quaver=80 (80 quaver/eighth note beats per minute)

Example C:   6/8 and  dottedcrotchet=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!

Download Metronome Beats from the Google Play store.

This entry was tagged with: Metronome Beats