The stave is divided into 'bars'. Usually
the first note in a bar is accented (played slightly louder) to
help emphasize the rhythm of the piece of music. Each bar may
have a different number of individual notes in it but they must
all add up to the same 'time value', or number of beats, in each
bar. A note's length in beats is shown in the chart below.
Two numbers (shown as a fraction) called
the time signature, just to the right of the clef, tell us what
timing to use when we play the music. The top number tells us
how many beats are in each bar and the lower number tells us the
lengths of each beat. 3 over 4 would mean three beats of crotchet
length (because a crotchet is a quarter of a semibreve). 2 over
2 would be two beats of minim length (because a minim is half
Notes of different beat lengths can
be used in each bar (music would be boring otherwise!) but they
must all add up to the correct total. Look at the common examples
below, see how the individual note 'time values' add up correctly
in each of the bars.
Beats are counted in each bar as you
play the music. For example in 3/4 time 1 - 2 - 3, 1 - 2 - 3,
and so on. Depending on the actual tune, one crotchet would be
played for each of the beats; two quavers would be played for
each of the beats; a minim would be played across two of the beats.