General conventions for time signatures

Over time, the placement and appearance of time signatures has developed conventions to ensure that their notation is always understood. Dorico Pro follows these conventions automatically.

Appearance conventions

Time signatures should fill the height of the staff. There is a risk they may not be noticed if they are smaller. The size of time signatures on staves with fewer than five lines should be the same as that of a time signature on an equivalent five-line staff.

Figure: Time signature on a five-line staff

Figure: Time signature on a single-line staff

Time signatures use a unique, heavy font that ensures they stand out against staff lines, and are instantly recognizable.

For some types of music, particularly film music, it is typical to use large time signatures that span several staves.

Placement conventions

Time signatures should be shown at the start of a piece and at the start of subsequent movements, if applicable, even if the music carries straight on. They should be placed after clefs and key signatures.

If time signature changes occur during a piece or movement, it should be placed immediately after a barline. Dorico Pro automatically inserts a barline before a time signature change if it occurs in the middle of an existing bar. However, Dorico Pro does not override your existing music by inserting extra beats, unless Insert mode is activated.

Figure: A 4/4 time signature interrupting a 5/8 time signature, input without Insert mode activated, leaving only three eighth note beats in the second 5/8 bar.

A time signature applies until the next time signature change, the end of the movement, or the end of a piece, whichever comes first.