Meaning of time "signature"?

Frontpage Forums General Music Meaning of time "signature"?

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  • #25044
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    Hi, why is it called a time “signature”? Is there a historical reason for the word “signature”? Anyone got any ideas?

    #25045
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    I wonder if it has something to do with the root “sign” and the signs that were used (like common time).

    #25163
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    According to multiple dictionaries, one definition of the word signature is a distinctive mark or characteristic used to identify someone. Seems logical to me that use of the word since it identifies a distinctive time or beat pattern. That was an interesting question. Thanks.

    #29276
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    I always liken it to our signature. I tell kids that our signature identifies us and that a time signature identifies how the music will pass through time.

    #29304
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    You have received historical answers; however, I have a practical answer/comment on how I teach time signatures. Edwin Gordon suggests that you call it a meter signature because it tells you the meter and elementary-aged students seem to understand that terminology better.

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