The difference between 2/4 and 4/4

So – answers to yesterday’s questions first.

  1. In what key is the piece? C.
  2. What is the time signature of the piece? 2/4 – could be heard as 4/4 either but is usually written as 2/4.
  3. In solfege, or numbers, name the 6 notes played in both hands and repeated during the intro. Re-Mi-Do-La-Ti-So OR 2-3-1-6-7-5.
  4. The last line of the A section (approx 0:30 on the video) makes use of a common musical technique – the same melody being played over different chords. What are the first four left hand chords played in this line? C, C/Bb, F/A, Fm/A.
  5. What is the chord played at the end of the descending sequence mentioned in Question 3? Gaug.

Some deeper insight into some of the above questions for anyone interested.

4 – The last three chords in this sequence are known as slash chords, in which the bass note (or bottom note in the left hand on piano) is not the root note of the chord. It is often (but not always) one of the other two notes in the chord.

5 – Gaug is short for G augmented, which is possibly the most unusual of the four types of triad chords (the other three being major, minor, diminished). An augmented chord contains the 1st, 3rd and sharpened 5th notes of the scale.

2 – This really interests me. From sheet music I have seen, this song is in 2/4 (i.e. 2 crotchet beats in a bar). However from a listening/feel point of view, I can just as easily hear it in 4/4 (i.e. 4 crotchet beats in a bar). So how can you tell the difference?


As far as I can see (and thanks to friend and colleague Ken McDonald for his input on this), there is no real difference in terms of feel. In terms of writing, faster pieces would seem more likely to be written in 2/4 as a writing/reading convenience for players – the length of note is important here.

I always tell my students to listen for the snare drum in a song. This will usually tell you where and how the drummer (and hence the band) are feeling a song – the snare will 95% of the time be placed on beats 2 and 4 of each bar. However this again doesn’t help with differentiating between 2/4 and 4/4, possibly because in many songs and for many musicians – there is no difference.

Comments welcome.




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