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Music theory
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Time signature
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Time signature

Music theory reminder

The time signature lets you define within a score the number and type of notes contained in a bar.

It consists of two numbers:

  • The upper number gives the number of beats in a bar.
  • Below, the second number gives the value or duration (in fractions of a whole note) of each of these beats.
For example, in 4/4 time , drawn, a bar has four beats, each beat being a quarter of a whole note. Such a bar will contain four quarter notes (or eight eighth notes).
A bar in 3/4 time signature is made of three quarters of a whole note: there are 3 beats in a bar, and each beat is a quarter of a whole note.
4/4 time signature is also called "common time," and can be abbreviated as a C.
2/2 time signature is also called "cut time," and can be abbreviated as a C struck through vertically.



A change of time signature is always located at the start of a bar and applies to all staves simultaneously.
You can set a change of time signature at any bar in the score.
For example, a score can begin with a 4/4 time signature, and then switch to 3/4 a few bars later.


Global editing:
To change the score's general time signature, select "Score>key and time signature". The time signature selection box opens.

Local editing:
A dedicated tool palette ("Window>Clef & signature tools") is available. It contains the time signature change tool, as well as tools for changing clef and key signature.

Select the time signature change tool (4/4) and click on a bar. The time signature selection box opens.

Selecting a time signature

The selection box has three tabs. Select the third one, marked "time signature". In the upper portion of the window, you can see a preview of the time signature you are defining.

You can select whether the time signature will be displayed or not, and the display mode for 2/2 and 4/4.

The displayed time signature can be different from the actual one. This makes it possible to deal with anacrusis very easily.

An anacrusis is an incomplete bar (it contains fewer beats than are required by the time signature). Anacrusis is frequently found at the beginning or end of a tune. It can also be called upbeat, offbeat, pickup notes, etc.

For example, a tune with a 4/4 time signature might begin with only one quarter note in the first bar (instead of 4).
Set a 1/4 time signature in the first bar, and ask the program to display 4/4. Then set a time signature change to 4/4 in the second bar, and ask the program to hide it (invisible).
The first bar will then accept only one quarter note, but all the other bars will hold 4.

To create an incomplete bar quickly, click the ruler while Command (Ctrl) key is depressed, and select "Insert incomplete bar" or "Edit>Bars>Insert incomplete bar".

Changing the Automatic Beaming parameters

For each time signature change, you can select how the Automatic Beaming will work. In the time signature select window, click the scissors for beam/unbeam notes.
You can change the beaming mode without changing the time signature (and therefore get a different beaming mode for each bar) by inserting an invisible time signature change.

For example, here are four ways of beaming the same notes:


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