Note: This section is not specific to the number system but provides information on the timing details that will be part of the new sheet layout. We will review additional information after the videos.
Time signatures represent the rhythm/pulse/beat of the song and will generally be written one of two ways. On music or charts, the two numbers are stacked one above the other with a line in between, as you saw in the video. If written outside of music or charts, they will resemble like fractions. For example, the time signatures we use most often are 4/4, 3/4, and 6/8.
Whichever way they're written, they mean the same thing and provide two important pieces of information. The first or top number is the number of beats in a bar of music. The second or bottom number tells us what note value is equal to one beat in the bar.
So why does the time signature matter? One of the changes with the new system is that every bar will be represented by its numeric chord value. As a general rule, when you see a chord number, you should play that chord for the full bar/measure. Practically speaking, you will see more numbers on the new sheets than we had letters, but it will define the song's timing much more accurately.
As an example, look at this line from Because He Lives. In the image below, each number represents one bar of the music. Because the time signature tells you how many beats are in each bar (the top/first number), you know that each chord on that line should be played for four beats.
Earlier you were told that if you see a chord number, you will usually play that chord for one full bar. As with most rules, there are exceptions (two, in this case). Anytime you see one of these two exceptions, it will be noted with parentheses around the chord(s).
The first exception is a partial bar and it's marked by the tag "1/2 bar" above the parentheses. A partial bar is when the song has a bar that is shorter than a regular bar (almost always half the duration of a regular bar). In order to know how long (how many beats) the partial bar is or how long each chord in the split bar should be played, you need to know the number of beats in every bar. The time signature tells us that in the top or first number.
For example, let's compare two songs with partial bars. The first, All Creatures Of Our God And King, is in common time (4/4) so each bar gets 4 beats. That means the 1/2 bar over "lu" is 2 beats.
However, the second example, Death Was Arrested, is in 6/8 time so each bar gets 6 beats. That means the 1/2 bar over "dead in my" is 3 beats.
The second type of exception is a split bar and it occurs when there is more than one chord per bar. We looked earlier at a line from Because He Lives where every chord was played for one bar. As you know or will soon, most of our songs have split bars throughout the song. Some split bars won't have any additional markings. In those cases, the chords are evenly distributed through the bar.
Here are a few examples.
In 4/4 (4 beats per bar):
(1/3 - 2m) - each chord gets 2 beats
(4 - 5 - 4/6 - 5/7) - each chord gets one beat
In 3/4 (3 beats per bar):
(1 - 2m - 1/3) - each chord gets one beat
In other instances, the chords won't be the same number of beats. When that happens, the length of the chords will be marked with standard music notes. Before we look at examples from our songs, let's do a quick review of the notes we'll use.
𝅝 = whole note - 4 beats
𝅗𝅥 = half note - 2 beats (𝅗𝅥 + 𝅗𝅥 = 𝅝)
𝅘𝅥 = quarter note - 1 beat (𝅘𝅥 + 𝅘𝅥 = 𝅗𝅥)
𝅘𝅥𝅮 = eighth note - .5 beat (𝅘𝅥𝅮 + 𝅘𝅥𝅮 = 𝅘𝅥)
Dotted notes - 1.5 times the original note
𝅗𝅥. = dotted half note - 3 beats
𝅘𝅥. = dotted quarter note - 1.5 beats
In Yet Not Christ But I, the second line contains a split bar (1 - 6m). The song is in 4/4, so 4 beats for each bar. The first chord gets three beats and the second chord gets one. This is indicated by the dotted half note above the first and the quarter note above the second.
(1 - 6m) (5sus - 5)
There is no more for heaven now to give
In the song, The Old Rugged Cross, most of the lines have split bars. We'll look at the first line. The song is in 3/4, so 3 beats for each bar. Each of the splits are two beats for the first chord and one for the second. This is indicated by the half note above the first chord and the quarter note above the second.
𝅗𝅥 𝅘𝅥 𝅗𝅥 𝅘𝅥
(1 - 4/1) 1 (4 - ♭7/4) 4
On a hill far a-way, stood an old rugged cross
There are a few more combinations, but the two examples above will cover about 95% of the split bars we use.
The links below are sheets that have been converted to the number system format. Try to play them in 2 or 3 different keys. It will be challenging at first but the more you do it, the easier it will get.
It may help at first to map and number your scale - write the scale out and then put the correct number above each note in the scale.
IMPORTANT: Please do not write letters beside the numbers on the chart. Doing that will make it nearly impossible to learn this system. Map the scale as described above and then try to reference it less and less each time you play. This will become second nature eventually, but it does take a little time.