This beginner lesson will explain how to play piano in cut time, a common time signature you’ll definitely run into during your musical travels.
Cut time (also known as alla breve) is a time signature that essentially means two half notes per measure (or the equivalent of that in notes or rests).
Here is the time signature of cut time. The top number represents the number of beats per measure and the bottom number represents the type of note worth one beat.
Another way to represent cut time is with a “C” with a line through it.
So what makes cut time different from common time or 4/4? After all, both time signatures can fit four quarter notes per measure.
The difference is that in 2/2, the beats feel larger.
In 4/4, the beats follow a strong-weak-medium-weak feeling; in 2/2, it’s strong-weak strong-weak.
Count: 1 and 2 and
Count: 1 2 3 4
Alla breve can be confusing if you’re used to quarter notes equaling 1 beat.
So, it’s time to reset your brain! Start seeing half notes as equaling 1 beat. Everything kind of “halves” like this:
In a way, notes are “cut” in half from their value in 4/4.
🔥🎹 HOT TIP! If you want a quick, no-nonsense explanation of key theory concepts, check out our lesson Piano Music Theory That’s Actually Useful.
You can count music in 2/2 like this:
Here’s an example:
Try clapping and counting this beat with a metronome. Then, try playing and counting at the piano.
You’ll notice that because we have no sixteenth notes, music can look “cleaner” (and even less intimidating!) in 2/2.
If you’re ever in doubt, stop playing, count the rhythm, and write it down. We hope this lesson helps!
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