Music theory > Lessons > Duration of sounds > Time signature > 5/4 time signature example

5/4 time signature example

Explanation of 5/4 time signature

In the article time signature, this is explained that:

- the top number indicates the number of time units in a measure (bar united kingdom).
- the bottom number determines the unit of time.

We can visually translate 5/4 like this:

time signature 5/4

That is to say that there are 5 quarter notes quarter note (crotchet) (crotchets united kingdom) per measure and the unit of time is the quarter note (a beat corresponds to one quarter note):

Beats in 5/4 time signature

1 quarter note quarter note (crotchet) (crotchet united kingdom) equals 1 beat.
2 eighth notes eighth note (quaver) (quavers united kingdom) equals 1 beat.
4 sixteenth notes sixteenth note (semiquaver) (semiquavers united kingdom) equals 1 beat.
and so on...

Examples found in famous works

Mars (The Planets) by Gustav Holst

Gustav Holst (1874 - 1934) wrote a suite for symphony orchestra entitled The Planets. This work was written between 1914 and 1917 and is composed of seven movements, the first is entitled Mars, the Bringer of War.

Structure of a 5/4 measure

Most of the time there are two ways to conceptualize a time signature 5/4 time signature: either 3 + 2 or 2 + 3:

Structure of a 5/4 measure

In Gustav Holst's Mars movement this is a 3 + 2.

In a 3 + 2, strong beats are 1 and 4.
In a 2 + 3, strong beats are 1 and 3.

Symphony n°6, Allegro con grazia, Tchaïkovski

Among the romantic repertoire is a masterpiece and a very good example of a 5/4 time signature: The second movement (Allegro con grazia) of Symphony No.6 in B minor by Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). You will notice the use of triplets.

The melody is played by the cello section (all cellos of the orchestra).


The royalty-free sound sample is performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, recorded in 1938 and conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler (source, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license)

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