How to Divide the Beat – Simple Time

How to divide the beat (Simple time)

The most common unit for a simple time beat is a crotchet. Two beamed quavers or four beamed semiquavers make a crotchet beat.

8 x 4

In simple time, all time is in patterns of 4.

How many ways can you arrange 4 uints of time?

There are 8 ways. In all simple time, there are only 8 patterns.

Conquer these 8 patterns and you conquer all simple time.

Musicians read these patterns like words. A glance is enough to sight-read them. So don’t deviate from these patterns. Don’t misspell them!

Here are the 8 patterns.

1short – short – short – short
2long – long
3long – short – short
4short – short – long
5short – long – short
6double long

A dot to the right of a note head increases the note’s duration by half. A dotted minim equates to one and a half minims (to three crotchets).

7long and a half – short
8short – long and a half

How can I use these patterns?

These word rhythms permeate through all simple time in all its dimensions. The rhythmic pattern long short short may be a crotchet followed by two quavers or in half the time a quaver followed by two semiquavers or in double the time a minim followed by two crotchets.

By knowing the 8 rhythmic “words” just think, you can sight read anything.

Of course we don’t beam 4 demisemiquavers on their own.

We beam them under a beat.

8 demisemiquavers make a crotchet beat. 4 demisemiquavers for the first half of the beat, 4 demisemiquavers for the second half of the beat.

We beam the demisemiquavers in groups of 4 with the halfway mark of the beat clearly visible.

We now present all the ways of writing 8 demisemiquavers beamed under a crotchet beat.

The tie in simple time

If your notation is correct, you can circle every note in an 8×4 pattern. If you can’t circle the 8×4 pattern then your notation is incorrect.

Use the tie to correct your notation.


Never dot a minim or crotchet rest in simple time. If you do you will be disguising the beat. Show the beat with your rests. Show where the bar is halfway through.

You may dot rests with tails. The issue is one of legibility. You must always clearly express the beat and pattern of 4. A dotted quaver rest is usually cleaner and more legible than a semiquaver and quaver rest.