Music theory > Lessons > Duration of sounds > Time signature > 6/4 time signature example

6/4 time signature example

Explanation of 6/4 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 6/4 like this:

time signature 6/4

That is to say that there are 6 quarter notes quarter note (crotchet) (crotchets united kingdom) per measure.

But, what is not indicated in this time signature is that can to a simple meter measure or a compound meter. In the article simple and compound meter, you learned that:

- Simple meter (or simple time) is a meter where each beat in a measure can be subdivided by two.
- Compound meter (or compound time) is a meter where each beat in a measure can be subdivided by three.

A beat with 6/4 time signature can be divided by two or three, it depends on the context.

Here are the beats for a simple meter time signature 6/4 measure:

Beats in 6/4 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...

Here are the beats for a compound meter time signature 6/4 measure:

 beats for a compound meter time signature 6/4 measure

- 3 quarter notes quarter note (crotchet) (crotchets united kingdom) equals 1 beat.
- 6 eighth notes eighth note (quaver) (quavers united kingdom) equals 1 beat.
- 12 sixteenth notes sixteenth note (semiquaver) (semiquavers united kingdom) equals 1 beat.
and so on...

Examples found in famous works

Chopin, Nocturne opus 9 n°1

Frédéric Chopin's Nocturne opus 9 n°1 uses the 6/4 time signature (simple meter in which 1 quarter note (crotchet) equals 1 beat):


(Royalty free sample performed by pianist Samson François in 1964, Creative Commons Zero 1.0 license, source)

In this excerpt, composed in the main key of B flat minor you will notice the use of double flats (measure 7), and the use of tuplets (measures 3, 4 and 11) and eighth note triplets (measure 12).

Brahms, Symphony No.3, Allegro con brio

The first movement, entitled Allegro con brio, of Brahms' Symphony No.3 start with a time signature 6/4 (compound meter in which 3 quarter note (crotchet) equals 1 beat):

Brahms, Symphony No.3, Allegro con brio

Royalty-free sound sample recorded by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra (source, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license)

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