Term 1 Theory Lessons & Quiz

3 Cut Time


time signature is written at the beginning of a staff, right after the clef, and tells the musician in one easy-to-read symbol about how beats are organized in that piece. Time signatures can be dupletriple, or quadruple. They can be simple or complex.

  • A simple time signature subdivides its beats into 2's. Time signatures with 4 as the bottom number are simple.
  • A complex time signature subdivides its beats into 3's. Time signatures with 8 as the bottom number are complex.

Duple meter has 2 beats in the bar.

  • 2/4 is simple duple
  • 6/8 is complex duple

Triple meter has 3 beats in the bar.

  • 3/4 is simple triple
  • 9/8 is complex triple

Quadruple meter has 4 beats in the bar.

  • 4/4 is simple quadruple
  • 12/8 is complex quadruple

Cut Time

Cut time is the common term used to describe the time signature 2/2.

The top number 2 tells us that there are 2 beats in each bar. That makes it a duple meter.

The bottom number 2 tells us that the half note receives one beat. If we subdivide that half note, it is equal to 2 quarter notes. This means that the subdivisions are in groups of 2, so this is simple time.

Cut time can also be written as a C with a line through it.

Counting Rhythms in Cut Time

The easiest way to explain how to count rhythms in cut time is to say that the notes will be played twice as fast as you are used to. We are most familiar with counting rhythms in common time where a quarter note equals 1 beat. In cut time, the notes are twice as fast. So, each note is worth only half as much. Here is a chart comparing common time and cut time note values:

To write the counting under a line of music in cut time, keep these values in mind. There are only 2 beats in each bar of cut time, so you should only include "1 + 2 +"

Here are some examples:


Take special note of how each rhythm is written. Spaces are used between each symbol, except when a number is written in brackets. Two forward slashes // are used to represent a bar line. You will be asked to write out counting in this way on your theory quiz.

Rhythm 1: 1 (2) // 1 2 // 1 + 2 // 1 2

Rhythm 2: 1 + 2 // 1 2 // 1 (2) // 1 + 2 +

Rhythm 3: 1 + 2 + // 1 2 + // 1 + (2) + // 1 2

Rhythm 4: 1 + (2) + // (1) + 2 // (1) + (2) + // (1) 2

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