2/2, or Cut Time, Time Signature
Hello, and welcome back to Upbeat Rhythms! This is the third and final of the written supplement to our time signatures video over on the Practice Pad, which is the space for all our video tutorials and lessons here on the Upbeat Rhythms site.
Looking at Cut Time, or 2/2, here is the first time we’re seeing a different number on the bottom. Instead of a quarter note representing one entire beat, in a 2/2 situation we’re looking for a half note to represent one entire beat. The two on the bottom of the time signature represents a half-note (though unusual, it is also possible to find a one in the bottom of a time signature, representing a whole note as receiving one entire beat, more on that later but I just wanted to point it out so you get the idea that 4 means quarter, 2 means half, and so 1 would naturally mean ‘whole’). So now we’re looking for two half notes represent the entire beats and fill up our measure.
At this point you might be thinking “this sounds almost the same”, and you would be right, because it really is practically the same thing, 4/4 versus 2/2. The difference is more of a ‘feel’ thing, a way of approaching the music, the particular interpretation the composer is looking for when you play through a cut time piece rather than a common time piece. Composers use the 2/2 or cut time to indicate that the music is quick, up-tempo, or ‘double time’ feel. The conductor generally conducts in two rather than four. It depends on your tempo markings as well, of course, so it’s certainly possible to have a slow Cut Time piece. You could have the same piece written in 2/4 and the only practical difference would be there would be twice as many measures. So really it’s more a matter of musical interpretation more than anything else, and many musicians can get thrown off by this, thinking it’s a lot different than it really is. From a nuts and bolts perspective, a measure still contains four quarter notes or two half notes or some other combination of notes and rests that add up correctly. You just need to be aware that Cut Time, or 2/2, simply means that instead of in 4/4 where four quarter notes add up to a complete measure, it’s two half notes that add up to a complete measure.
And that’s cut time. Don’t let it throw you off. By the way, you don’t generally see 2/2 so much, usually you see the cut time notation instead. You see 4/4 quite a bit along with common time, but if it’s cut time usually the score provides the Cut Time notation.
In the next lesson, we’re going to start getting into smaller notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, maybe even talk a little bit about thirty-second notes, and we’ll move right along to some other different types of time signatures as well. So please keep an eye out for that and lots more future new content coming soon, we hope to see you there, please feel free to leave any comments or questions either below this post or over on the Practice Pad video post, and thanks very much for checking out UpbeatRhythms.com!