The textbook definition of time signatures is “the top number shows how many beats are in each measure, while the bottom number is the type of note that gets one beat.” This is a perfect explanation, but sometimes not very helpful when we’re trying to understand the relationship between time signatures, or trying to get up and running with time signatures quickly. Here we give you a quicker definition that’s a bit more practical.

Now we discuss the importance of the number “4” in music. Most time signatures have 4 main beats, and these beats are grouped into small segments of music called “measures” or “bars.”

Also, most songs are arranged and segmented in groups of 4 measures. For example, most verses will contain some multiple of 4 measures – having either 4, 8, or 12 measures. Likewise, most choruses will contain either 4, 8, or 12 measures. Remembering this basic principle will give you a better handle on reading, writing, and playing music. It’s the magic of 4!