Violin Online: Rhythm and Meter
Learn what rhythm and meter mean in violin music
Meter & Time Signatures

Meter is the grouping of beats in stressed and unstressed patterns. For example, the musical form of a waltz generally uses a rhythmic pattern of three beats, with the first note accented (ONE, two, three; ONE, two, three). This is called triple meter. The most common meters are duple meters (a rhythmic pattern of two beats); triple meter (three beats) or quadruple meter (four beats).

Time Signatures (sometimes known as meter signatures) are a sign or fraction placed at the beginning of a piece to indicate the meter of the piece. Time signatures show how the beats are grouped in each measure, and what the duration is of each note. The top number in a time signature indicates how many beats there are in a measure, and the bottom number indicates the note value which represents one beat. For example, a time signature of 3/4 indicates each measure contains three quarter notes. Since each measure is grouped into three beats, 3/4 is in a triple meter.

Sample Time Signatures
2/4 time signature 2/4 Time Signature
3/4 time signature 3/4 Time Signature
4/4 time signature The letter “C” for “common time” is often used to indicate a 4/4 time signature.
6/8 time signature 6/8 Time Signature. Notice how in this time signature, the eighth notes are grouped into two groups of three notes each.
Rhythmic Value Chart
NameNote BeatsRest
Whole Note whole note 4 beats whole rest
Dotted Half Note* dotted half note 3 beats dotted half rest
Half Note half note 2 beats half rest 
Quarter Note quarternote 1 beat quarter rest
Eighth Note eigth note 1/2 beat eigth rest
Sixteenth Note sixteenth note 1/4 beat sixteenth rest
*A dot increases the value of a note by 1/2. Example:

Equivalent Note Chart
Whole Note whole note      
Half Notes half note half note    
Quarter Notes quarternote quarternote quarternote quarternote
Eighth Notes eighth notes eighth notes eighth notes eighth notes
Eighth Note Triplets* triplets triplets triplets triplets
Sixteenth Notes sixteenth notes sixteenth notes sixteenth notes sixteenth notes
*A triplet is a group of three notes played in the time of 2 notes of the same value.


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