Math and Science in Music – Time Signatures

Math and Science in Music - Time Signatures

Music is such a wonderful pursuit for mind and body because it is not just an art form, but combines a myriad of other disciplines, including mathematics, biology, and physics. This series, Math and Science in Music will explore the many ways in which music incorporates a variety of these disciplines.


Time signatures are used in Western musical notation to denote rhythm and metre in a piece. The time signature is found at the beginning of the piece and is usually comprised of two numbers:


Math is used in a myriad of different ways when looking at time, rhythm and metre in a piece. Music is mathematically divided into equal parts using measures, and those measures are divided up into equal parts using varied rhythms. Rhythmic values usually differ from measure to measure to make a piece more interesting.

Musicians must become adept not only at translating the rhythmic values they see into their mathematical counterparts, but they often need to subdivide those rhythms in their mind to ensure they’re keeping a steady tempo. This means that they are completing mathematical formulas in their mind, while keeping a steady tempo, and applying artistic expression to their performance! Pretty amazing!

How else might math be used in music? Tell us in the comments below!

Calgary Children's Choir