6/8 not 3/4?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by fishcake, Oct 16, 2003.

  1. Just wondering, why would a composer write a piece in 6/8 instead of 6/4 or 3/4? It seems useless to me. I searched around here, and found some quasi-answers, things like "it has an eighth note feel" or whatever, but if eighth notes get the beat in 6/8, then what's the difference? Please excuse my lack of knowledge and such, i tried to get into music theory class but didn't. :meh:
  2. McHack


    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    3/4 is to 6/8,, much like 4/4 is to cut time.. aka 2/2... The actual tempo is much slower in 6/8... specifically,, twice as slow.
  3. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    Nothing to excuse: if you don't ask, you won't know. The real main difference between the two is that the basic pulse in 6/8 is different from that in 3/4. In 3/4, there are are typically three main beats, on the three quarter notes, or every other eighth note, if you look at it that way. In 3/4, the six eighth notes are felt (I'm simplifying a bit) this way: DA da DA da DA da. In 6/8, however, there are usually only *two* main beats in the bar, on the first and fourth eighth notes: DA da da DA da da. In a way, 6/8 is closer to 2/4 than to 3/4: you could think of it as being like 2/4 but with a triplet feel (meaning the main beat is subdivided into threes rather than twos or fours). In the same way, 12/8 has four main beats and thus is like 4/4 with a triplet feel, and 9/8 has three main beats and thus is like 3/4 with a triplet feel. Again, I'm simplifying a good bit, and things aren't always this simple, but what I'm telling you works in a lot of situations.

    ANyway, if I've made this at all clear, you can see that there could be a very concrete reason for writing something in 6/8 rather than 3/4.
  4. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Good explanation, Richard.
    I think you've touched on why 6/8 over 4/4(polyrhythm) works so well.

    For S's & G', here's the 6/8 clave for your tapping pleasure(good for when stuck in traffic, annoying your girlfriends, etc)-

    LEFT Hand(the PULSE; the 1st & 4th beats mentioned by Richard)-

    RIGHT Hand(the 6/8 CLAVE)-

    If you note, it's a 2-bar pattern.
    It's also good practice to reverse the bars(play bar-2 first & bar-1 second).
  5. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    That's not true. 3/4 is not to 6/8 as 4/4 is to 2/2.

    There's not necessarily any different to the tempo, is the feel that's different. Richard explained it well, but basically, while 3/4 is:

    1 2 2 2 3 2

    6/8 is:

    1 2 3 4 5 6
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    That's right - I've played a few Latin or Afro-Cuban 6/8 tunes and they are really different in feel to a Waltz or Jazz 3/4 swing tune.

    Afro Cuban 6/8 can be quite "driving" with insistent percussion - while 3/4 Jazz is often light and floaty.

    6/8 clave
    The original form of the clave, it can be played with a 3-2 or a 2-3 pattern.

    6/8 clave played in 4/4 with triplets
  7. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Intersting stuff. certinaly re-inforced my understanding.

    Of the many bands I'm in, I've ever encountered 3/4, 6/8 and 12/8. I was surprised how very different they feel.

  8. That was just what I was thinking. I play metal and use both 6/8 and 3/4 and you really hit it right on with the "driving feeling" of 6/8. 3/4 is more smoothe and flowing.
  9. Wow, thanks guys, I think I get it for the most part now. And thanks to Jimk for a new way to annoy the hell out of everybody. :D