At the beginning of each song there is a pair of numbers, one above the other. This pair of numbers is called the time signature, and it indicates the underlying meter, or rhythmic skeleton of the song.

The time signature functions in connection with the vertical lines, or bar lines that occur at regular intervals throughout the song, that divide the song into measures, or bars. The top number of the time signature tells us how many beats or rhythmic pulses are in each measure. You can think of these as the ticks of a metronome or the taps of you foot. The bottom number tells us what kind of note corresponds to the beat. If the bottom number is 4, that means that the beats are quarter notes. The bottom number is almost always a 2, 4, or 8. The top number can be anything.

If the time signature is 4/4 it means that we're beating quarter notes and there are 4 of them in each measure. If we were to count the underlying meter, we would count: 1234 1234 with slightly more stress on beat 1, the downbeat. If we're beating quarter notes, it's obvious that a half note would last for 2 beats. It's important to be aware of the time signature before we start singing a song.

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