Music 05 – Tempo

Music 05 – Tempo

The next portion of our training series will be on timing, or as it is called in the music world, Tempo.  Tempo is the ruler of time and speed in music.  It tells how to measure our speed, and emotion, when it comes to music.

Now, before we can get into depth on how to tell the speed of a song, we must understand first a musical “bar”, also known as a measure, and the length of notes within it.

The image above is a fantastic representation of 5 measures, and what they look like on a grand staff.  A measure is simply a visual measurement of time.  See those lines that are vertically across the lines that notate pitch?  These tell you different areas to go Ina piece of music.

The “single” line tells you to go to the very next measure.  The “double” lime tells you to end this segment, and go to the next.  The “start repeat” lets you know that you will repeat the music, but starting on this measure.  The “end repeat” tells you to go back to the “start repeat” measure.  The “final” is the end of the song.

Now, in regards to the timing of music, we mainly care about the in-between space of the measure.  Let’s take a look at the different notation that can go in-between.


You will generally see whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, and in rare occasions, thirty-second notes and sixty fourth notes.  These are definitions on how long the note lasts in the measure, and how closely the note are to be grouped.  A whole note lasts for the whole measure, a half note for half the measurement and so on.  This can also be applied for “rests”, which denotes a portion of the music to be silent.


The length that a note lasts is very important in measuring and describing the tempo of the rest of the piece.  In western music, one of the most common, and modern ways of setting the tempo of a song is by Beats Per Minute, or BPM.  This is measured by how many quarter notes are in 1 minute.  60 BPM is 1 quarter note per second (1 quarter note is 1 beat count for all BPM).

Time Signature

Time signature generally goes on the staff on a piece of music, right at the beginning.  The time signature generally tells you how many counts go in each measure, and it really sets the mood to a song.  Time signature is very important to consider when creating a song, because it can rule whether the song feels like a waltz, a march, feels formal or informal, etc.  Lets look at a few examples of different Time Signatures.  You can refer to the below image to help you imagine what this looks like in simple songs.


Common Time: 4/4 Meter

4/4 Meter is the most common form in music.  This is why it is often referred to as “Common Time”  This is 4 counts, or beats, per measure.

Waltz Time: 3/4 Meter

Everyone recognizes the name waltz as a dance.  A waltz is put to the timing of 3/4 meter.  This is 3 counts, or beats, per measure.

March Time: 2/4

The march time absolutely feels like a march.  It commonly uses four 1/8th notes per measure, or two quarter notes.  This means that there is 2 counts per measure.


There are many more Time signatures that are available, and that have been used, even really odd time signatures, such as 11/4 timing.  This being a basic viewing of time, you can now understand when someone refers to a “Bar”, or “Measure”.  This is all used, intentionally or not, in every song that exists.  This can measure how many words are in a song, or in a bar.  It formats the length and feel of a song as well.

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