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I hear a line in 4/4, while bandleader says it`s 6/8

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Aged_Clayman, Feb 5, 2015.

  1. Good day, folks.

    The problem I have aroused while playing double bass and not electric bass, but it`s a question of theory and I`d rather ask it here, than on the Dark Side:)

    So, the string trio I play in decided to cover a track by John Zorn. I`ve listened to the track intro (I uploaded it here for you to enjoy)

    and heard a cool polyrhtythm - bass playing in 4/4 with cello and violin in 6/8 (bars 1 to 16)
    Than I`ve been given sheet music:

    2015-02-05 13.38.54.jpg

    As you can see, for some reason it`s transcribed as 6/8. I tried to play it as written with metronome, but I just cannot understand it that way - downbeats in weird places and all that. The problem is, the bandleader insists on playing it in 6/8 and counts it as 6/8, which constantly throws me off.
    So I ask your advice. Am I wrong hearing the bass part in 4/4?
    Thanks in advance.
  2. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    Measures of 6/8 are frequently subdivided into 2 beats, with each beat consisting of three eighth notes, and I think that is what you are hearing/feeling. If I were your bandleader, I would count this piece off in 2, with each beat being a dotted quarter. But if he/she insists on counting it in 6, try to subdivide it in your mind as 2: : 1 2 3 4 5 6 = "1, 2".

    In that regard, it might help if you think of the quarter note in measures three and ten as being two tied eighth notes, as that will more clearly show where the beat is.
    Jon Moody likes this.
  3. And yes to the 6/8 time being subdivided into two beats. 1-2, 1-2, 1-2. The guy with the stick is always right.
    Fergie Fulton likes this.
  4. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Any rhythm can be notated in any time signature, some just lend themselves better to one or the other.
    Using 6/8 simplifies the notation, avoiding triplets everywhere
    foot tapping on 1 and 4 would help
    BassChuck and Fergie Fulton like this.
  5. tinyd


    Mar 11, 2003
    Wikipedia describes 6/8 as a "compound time signature" where it's usually thought of as two groups of three (as Febs says above) so you may well feel a bass line as a 2- or 4-beat pulse. However, there are other ways of feeling it - Afro Blue by Mongo Santamaria is a 6/8 tune but the bass line has a 3/4 feel (the Coltrane version of this tune is usually notated as 3/4).
  6. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    Given that the tempo marking on this piece explicitly calls that out, I would too.
    Febs likes this.
  7. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005
    Looks to me like the bass part is implied 7/8 within the 6/8 time signature. See the way the time turns around in bar 5 and again at bar 11?

    When you look at bar 16 the implication of a lopsided 7 is still there (3-3-more than-1-eighth).
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