Cut Time: Definition in Musical Terms

Symbols representing cut time.
Cut time signatures.

Brandy Kraemer


Cut time (or “cut common time”) is a 4/4 time signature that’s been rhythmically “cut” to manipulate rhythm and/or tempo. Cut time can be written as 2/2, or as a c-shaped symbol with a vertical slash (see image).

Cut time is used for the following rhythmic effects:

  • To Mimic a March: The rhythm of 2/2 time is similar to that of 2/4 - also known as “march” time - because both have the downbeat on every other beat.
  • To Speed Up the Tempo: When switching from common time, cut time means you’ll be playing twice as fast. In this manner, cut time can be referred to as “half time,” or “playing in 2.”

Also Known As

  • half time; in 2
  • alla breve (It)
  • à deux temps rapide; à la blanche (Fr)
  • Allabreve; Takt in Halben Noten (Ger)

More Musical Terms