Meter is defined as the scheme of note values and accents which is constant throughout a composition or a section. The time signature, which indicates the meter for the subsequent passages of music, is placed after the clef and the key signature. The top number of a time signature indicates the number of notes in a measure, and the bottom note of a time signature indicates the basic time value of the measure. Thus, a measure in 3/4 time contains three beats, and each of those beats is a quarter note, which is the basic time value. How the beats are divided is what distinguishes simple meter from compound meter. In simple meter, beats are divided into two smaller units, while in compound meter the beats are divided into smaller units of 3 or more.
Spacing for time signature
- When there are no sharps or flats in the key signature, the standard distance between the left side of the time signature and the left side of the clef is 3 1/2 spaces (63 EVPU’s)
- When there is a key signature in between the clef and the time signature, the distance between the left side of the time signature and the left side of the last sharp or flat is 2 1/2 spaces (45 EVPU’s).
- If there is a repeat bar after the time signature, the distance between the left side of the time signature and the left side of the repeat bar is 3 1/2 spaces.
Beaming rules in different meters (see Beams and Flags)