Time Signatures 4/4

Have you ever wondered why there is a fraction at the beginning of music? Why don't we see 4/4 written as 1 like we 
were always taught to reduce in Math class? 

Lesson Objectives

  • The learner will be able to accurately describe the purpose and function of a time signature.
  • The learner will be able to differentiate between whole note, half note and quarter note.
  • The learner will be able to differentiate between whole rests, half rests and quarter rests.
  • The learner will be able to decode, count and notate rhythms in 4/4 with above note values

TIME SIGNATURES appear at the beginning of a piece of music and and define the amount and type of notes that will be in each measure. The top number tells us how many beats are in each measure, and the bottom tells us what note gets the beat (or pulse). We will be focusing on 4/4 and 3/4 Time Signatures throughout this unit.



In 4/4 time signature (also referred to as COMMON TIME), is commonly found in every genre (or type) of music. In 4/4 there are four quarter notes per measure as noted by the number 4 on top (or a combination of other notes that equal four quarter notes). The bottom number which is a four tells us that the quarter note gets the beat (or pulse). In 4/4 time, there are four quarter notes in every measure, and the quarter note gets the beat.

  • Note: Sometimes 4/4 is noted with a large C for common time.

Note Values


In 4/4 Time Signature, the notes below are used to illustrate note value or length.

A WHOLE NOTE = 4 Beats

A HALF NOTE = 2 Beats


In the following example, you can see that in each measure, there are 4 beats. 1 Whole Note = 4 Beats. 2 Half Notes = 4 Beats. 4 Quarter Notes = 4 Beats.


In this example, you see that there are 2 quarter notes and 1 half note in the first measure, and one whole note in the second. Each measure has 4 beats.




A REST is used in music to indicate silence.


A WHOLE REST = 4 Beats, Looks like an upside down top hat, and is written under the fourth line on the staff.

A HALF REST = 2 Beats, Looks like a top hat, and it written above the third line on the staff.

A QUARTER NOTE = 1 Beat, Can be drawn by first making a letter Z and then a letter C.

In the following example, you will see that there is a QUARTER REST on beat 3 of the measure. The measure still consists of 4 beats.



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4/4 Time Signatures File:Work8.pdf

Objective: Understanding how to count notes in 4/4 time signature.

Rests File:Work9.pdf

Objectives: Understand the role of rests and how to count them in 4/4 time signature.

Notes and Rests File:Work10.pdf

Objective: Combining notes and rests in 4/4 time signature.


4/4 Time Signature (Answer Key) File:Answerwork8.pdf

Rests (Answer Key) File:Answerwork9.pdf

Notes and Rests (Answer Key)File:Answerwork10.pdf

Next Lesson Time Signatures 3/4

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