Answering Time Signature Questions

Time Signature Walkthrough Questions

Grade 2

There are three possible questions you will be asked about time signatures in grade 2. Being able to complete similar questions is useful, regardless of whether you are doing grades, and is a good step to truly master time signatures at this level!

The three questions are to add bar lines; add time signatures; rewrite a melody in a different time signatures.
Each of these will be explored in turn.

Adding Bar Lines

When asked to add bar lines, you will be given a melody with a final bar line and a time signature, as below.

Adding Bar Lines Question
Grieg Op. 68, No. 1

The first step is to look at the time signature.
In this instance it is cut time, which means two minims per beats.

Now, you want to add up all the notes until you get two complete minim beats:

Adding Bar Lines Step 1

In this instance, the first two notes are both minims, making the first bar easier, so the bar line will go after these two notes.

We will now do the same again, only starting with the first note after the bar line.
You may be given a grand stave (as with this piece), or a single stave. If you are given a grand stave, it is easiest to concentrate on a single stave. In this instance, we will focus on the bass clef’s stave.

The first note in the bass clef stave in the second bar is therefore a crotchet rest. The second note is another crotchet. As both of these are as long as one minim, we know this is one minim beat.

The next two notes are also crotchet beats, making these two notes a minim beat.
This means the bar line is after these next two notes, resulting in this:

Adding Bar Lines Step 2

It may be useful to write in the ‘1 + 2 + ‘ or to group the minim beats, or to do both at first. Over time you will begin to see the beat groups without having to do any writing!

We will do the same again now.
The first two notes after the bar line are crochets, which together equal one minim, meaning these are one beat.
The same goes for the next two notes.
Therefore, we will draw a bar line after those two notes.

Adding Bar Lines Step 3

That is the final bar line we need to add.
However, if you want to check you have completed the bar lines correctly, you can work out the beats in the final bar, and if they equal two complete minim beats, you are good to go!

This question was an easier one, however it shows the basics of how to answer these types of questions and should be enough to allow you to do the questions in the Time Signatures Exercises.

Adding Time Signatures

The next question you may be asked is to add a time signature. This is probably the hardest one of the three, but still definitely easy for you to learn!

You will be given an exercept like below with no time signature:

Adding Time Signatures Question
Mendelssohn Op. 67, No. 6

There are two things you can do in these questions.
The easiest method is to lok for obvious groupings of notes in a bar that hint at the time signature:

Adding Time Signatures Step 1

Here you can see there are three quavers in this bar.
The only time signatures we know of that has 3 quavers in a bar is 3/8. So that is the answer!

If you can find no obvious grouping like this, you can go through each stave, adding up the notes within each bar. In the instance above if you go through the bass clef stave, you will be adding together a quaver and a crotchet.
This means there is a dotted crotchet, or three quavers per bar.
Only one of these is relevant for a time signature: the three quavers per bar.
This makes the time signature 3/8:

Adding Time Signatures Step 2

Finally, you may be given a bit stuck as to whether a piece of music is in 2/2 or 4/4 time. or in 3/4 or 3/8 time. This can be a tricky situation, but can be solved easily.
The following melody is in 4/4 time, but how would you know whether it is in 4/4 or 2/2 time if you weren’t given the time signature?

Time Signature Difference

The give away is by looking at the melody.
In this melody, there is a lot of quaver and semiquaver notes. This implies that it will be 4/4 time, as time signatures with bigger beats such as 2/2, often have notes that are longer.

Rewriting Time Signatures

You may finally be asked to rewrite a melody in a time signature of either double or half the length.
This can be done quite easily.

When you have to rewrite a melody in a time signature of half the length, you simply halve each beat.
To tell if it is half the length, you need to determine whether each beat of the new time signature is half the length of the original time signature.
For instance, 2/2 time has two minim beats. Half a minim is a crotchet, so each beat would then be a crotchet. The number of beats in a bar stay the same, so there would be two crotchets in a bar, making it 2/4.

Again, to answer the question, you simply halve each note’s value:

Rewriting Time Signatures 1

Alternatively, you may be given a melody and have to rewrite it in a time signature of twice the length.
To do this, you will double each notes value:

Rewriting Time Signatures 2

If you are struggling to double or half dotted notes, it may be useful to write out what three notes they consist of, and then doubling or halving those notes, as below:

Dotted notes broken apart and doubled or halved


These are the three questions you will be asked about for grade 2 for time signatures.
It’d be beneficial to complete the some of the questions in the time signatures worksheet, you’ll find they become far easier over time.