Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by count_funkula, Dec 1, 2000.

  1. I don't know how I have gotten by so long without knowing this. I don't understand how time signatures work, or at least I think thats what they are called. For example 4/4, thats pretty common. What about 6/8?

    The only explaination I have ever heard is "That means it has 4 beats per measure". OK, what does that mean? How do I count it out in my head?

  2. MJB


    Mar 17, 2000
    4/4 is four quarter notes per measure.
    6/8 is six eigth notes per measure.

    Try tapping your foot to keep time. 4/4 is also called common time because most music is 4/4. Complex time signatures are more difficult, particularly something like 9/8. Try and get some music you are really familiar with and own the CD, and read along as the music plays. I'm talking real music not tablature. You can also get books on teaching yourself to read music that come with CD's that cover the examples in the book. Or you can get a teacher who will show you and explain all of this and other questions you have. Good luck.

  3. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    (Count Funkula: You have one of the coolest screen names here at TalkBass. I wish I had thought of it for myself.)

    Your understanding of time sigs is only partial. 4/4 would be...four beats to the measure with every quarter note(that's the lower 4 in the signature) getting one beat. 6/8 would be six beats to the measure, with every eighth(that's the 8 in the sig) note getting one beat.

    OK. Let me say it this way. The top number is the number of beats per measure. The lower one indicates the time value of which type of note. So 3/4 (waltz) is three beats to the measure, with every quarter note getting one beat. So if you see an an eighth note in the measure, it would get half a beat. If you see two eighth notes in the measure, they would get a half beat each.

    But, I am certain you can find a much more thorough explanation of time signatures in the lessons part of this web site or at basslessons.com or other musicians' web sites. My explanation is so oversimplified, it will only help you somewhat, because to really understand time sigs and what they mean in the context of a song, you will eventually have to understand what to do with tied notes, rests, dotted notes, etc. It takes awhile to learn all that, but is essential for bass players to learn as keeping time is one of your responsibilities.

    Jason Oldsted
  4. count_funkula, cool thats almost like my hotmail addy.. but thats count_radula.. cool anyways and welcome to the board!
  5. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Not sure what style of music you're into...
    Perhaps you've heard these-
    1)RHCP's "Breaking The Girl" is in "3".
    2)The theme to "Mission Impossible" is in "5".

    What gets out there are tunes that have cross rhythms happenin'; that is, YOU may be playing a Funky figure in 4/4 & the drummer may be playing in 6/4(or 5/4 or 11/16 or part/all the above). ;)
    You may have heard of something referred to as "3 over 4", "4 over 3", "5 over 4", "6 over 4", "7 over 4", etc. There are some CLAPPING exercises that should be practiced by all of us bassists. If interested, I'll attempt to type them out...otherwise, hasta.
  6. Thanks for the name compliments.

    Yes, I would be interested in the clapping exercises.

    I think maybe what I need is a means to count while I'm playing to help me keep in sync with the drummer. Last night we were rewriting one of our songs and the drummer said he was "playing in 6/8". He tried counting it out for me but I didn't understand what he was trying to say. I guess if I could count it out in the same way he was I could figure out what count the snare is on and what count the kick lands on. I can usually feel this because most of what we do is in 4/4 I guess.

    I could have eventually picked up on this song as well but It takes me a while to get the feel and it does me no good if I'm trying to write a line at home without the drummer.

    Am I making sense at all?

  7. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...alright, let's see how bad I can "F" this up-

    ...having 2 or more DIFFERENT rhythmic pulses occurring SIMULTANEOUSLY in an EQUAL amount of time.

    ***The Formula***
    To play "Rhythm A" against "Rhythm B"
    1)Multiply "A" times "B"
    2)Divide "C" by "B"
    ...yields the "B" pulse
    3)Divide "C" by "A"
    ...yields the "A" pulse

    Example: Play 3 against 4
    ...A=3; B=4.
    1)AxB=C That is, 3x4=12 C=12, right?
    ...Write out 12 1/16 notes on a piece of paper
    or /1e&a2e&a3e&a/ That's 12 1/16 notes, right?
    2)C/B=B pulse 12/4=3
    ...That means every THIRD note is the "B" pulse.
    3)C/A=A pulse 12/3=4
    ...That means every FOURTH note is the "A" pulse.

    Again, the above 12 notes in ONE bar /1e&a2e&a3e&a/
    The "A" pulse is on "1"; "a of 1"; "& of 2", and "e of 3".
    The "B" pulse is on "1"; "2"; and "3"
    Note the FOUR "beats" in the "A" pulse.
    Note the THREE "beats" in the "B" pulse.

    Now for tapping(tap on a table)that figure out...
    RH=/1..a..&..e../=FOUR EQUALLY OVER THE THREE...see it?

    BOTH hands TAP TOGETHER on "1"...that's the ONLY time BOTH are played together. That's how you'll know you're back on the "1".

    "5 over 4"
    LH=/1....e....&....a..../=FOUR EQUALLY OVER THE FIVE

    "6 over 4"
    LH=/1.....&.....4.....&...../=FOUR EQUALLY OVER SIX

    "7 over 4"
    LH=/1......a......&......e....../=FOUR EQUALLY OVER SEVEN

    You mentioned 6/8; here's the 6/8 Clave-
    (BTW, in 6/8, the pulse is usually on "1" & "4"...played by the LH in this example).


    You should also be able to REVERSE the direction(play bar 2 FIRST & bar 1 SECOND).

    Anybody else wanna do the Son & Rhumba claves?

    ...and I'm pretty sure none of that will align as I typed it...hope it helps somewhat(if not, ask KungFuqua). :D
  8. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Some other things you may hear-

    Some bands will lop off an 1/8 note or 1/4 note to make a tune "different".
    The main riff in "The Ocean" by Led Zep is a 2-bar phrase-Bar 1 is in 4/4, Bar 2 is in 7/8. Basically, bar 2 is an 1/8 note SHORT of making the figure an EVEN 2-bar phrase entirely in 4/4.

    Written out, the rhythm is-
    Bar 1(in 4/4)=/1.&.2e&a......../
    Bar 2(in 7/8)=/1e&.2e&a3.&a.e/

    You may also think of Bar 1's 4/4 as 8/8...there are 16 1/16 notes in 4/4(1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a), right?
    Bar 2's 7/8 will have FOURTEEN 1/16 notes(1e&a2e&a3e&a4e).
    Note that Beat 4 contains ONLY "4e" & not "4e&a" as in Bar 1.

    Some tune I heard the other night at the hockey game was kinda cool...
    It was a recent Rock tune(nobody around me could tell me who did it, though). Anyway, the bass part to the verse to the tune followed this 4-bar pattern(in an 1/8 note feel)-

    See that Bar 2 is in 3/4? Pretty neat.

  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Jim has given you some very detailed replies to this, but I think you have to accept that if you are going to play anything but very simple rhythms, you have to have your own internal sense of where the beats in the bar are, regardless of what everyone else is doing. Drummers don't have to put the kick or snare on the same place in the bar and there may be sections where they don't play either at all - they may just keep a pattern on the high-hat for example.

    You might see 6/8 as two bars of 3/4 - I play a few 6/8 Afro-Cuban tunes and generally think of it this way or 3/4 for each part of the clave pattern that Jim mentions. In Afro Cuban 6/8 , you won't get a kick and snare at all probably, although in one tune we do, our drummer does play a 4/4 kick drum pattern and 6/8 on the ride cymbal - poly-rhythms, again as Jim mentions. So In this case I have to specifically avoid the kick drum. This happens a lot in Latin music - you avoid the first beat in the bar and can't rely on the drums. In fact if we start to feel we are hitting the same beats, we know we've messed up! ;)
  10. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Yep, I agree, Bruce; an INTERNAL clock is what you're shooting for, Count.
    Example: If you're used to playing music with a strong backbeat, you'll probably get used to hearing the snare on "2" & "4"(ad nauseum). Eventually, you may run into a guy that may play a backbeat in HALF TIME against you line. This will put the snare on "3".
    The point is to get to the place where you KNOW *where* YOU are(always, if possible).
  11. Hey everyone

    Well Jim has really given some pretty detailed examples so I thought that I may try and simplify this a little (if possible). OK so you need to count along with the drummer. If the drummer is playing in 4/4 (which is what your're likely to be used to) then you would proberbly tap your foot 4 times per bar. That is to say each beat of the bar is a qrotchet (duration = one beat) and there are 4 of them in the bar. If you were to play in 7/4 then you would tap your foot 7 times per bar. This is because there are 7 quater notes (or qrotchets) per bar. You will count similarly if the time signature has 9, 10, 11 over 4. So in other words the numerator tells you how many beats there are in the bar (or if you like - the number of times to tap your foot) while the denomenator tells you the duration of each beat.

    Now you will also encounter time signatures like 6/8 as you've already mentioned. So an 8th note is half the duration of a quater note (sorry if this is a little too simple) therefore if you are playing at the same tempo as you were in a 4/4 song then each beat of the bar will the half as long (ie you can tap your foot twice as fast). So if you are playing in 6/8 you will tap your foot 6 times per bar and will be tapping your foot twice as fast as you would if you were playing in say 3/4.

    Now mathmatically 6/8 = 3/4, in music the difference is a feel thing. If your're playing a riff which has an eighth note feel while the drummer is playing 3/4 then it might be said that you are playing in 6/8.

    Uhmm well I'm not sure if this helps or not and since I've only started using time myself I'll leave it at that. The most important thing is to feel the 'one' and play this each time (for most forms of music). Once you are totally confident with this then you can start having fun and experimenting with the polyrythms that Jim mentioned. Well that's about all for now, C-YA and keep groovin.
  12. lump


    Jan 17, 2000
    St. Neots, UK
    I remember back in college conducting class there was a piece that was three against two, and you had to conduct in 3/4 with one hand and cut time with the other (I wasn't taking the class myself because I was too snotty to be a lowly Ed. major, which is why I'm in the Air Force now :)). But my friends were wandering around trying to get the meter right, and looked like they were being attacked by invisible killer bees. Jim's explanation would have been a big help.

    And if someone already said this, I missed it. 6/8 is most often counted in TWO, not six (unless the tune is real slow). That is, ONE-two-three, FOUR-five-six (or however you want to articulate it), with one being the downbeat and four being the upbeat. Yeah, it's six beats per measure, but it's a two feel (do you ever count a tune in 8/8?). The bass drum is gonna be on beats one and four (and God help you if the drummer decides that every eighth note needs a kick). And 3/4, if it's fast, has a ONE feel - the bass drum will (hopefully) be on beat one (think of a waltz). I love triplet time signatures, but most drummers (and some rhythm guitar players) seem to hate them, and often mutilate the feel. A good recent example of three used WELL in some harder rock is the new "Perfect Circle" CD. Lots of cool triplet-feel stuff.

    And what the hell is a "qrotchet?"
  13. Hey Lump

    Your explanation seems pretty OK to me but I guess I'd never thought of it that way. Cool you learn something everyday. As for the qrotchet thing I may have spelled it wrong but it's an alternative name for a quater note, in the same way that a quaver is an eighth note, a minum is a half note and a semibrieve (sp?) is a whole note. Maybe these are names used outside of the states but I learn them years ago while playing trumpet. Hope this helps.

    On a different note I'd kinda be interested to hear a 6/8 feel with a kick on each of the quaters. Break out the double kick and give Dave Lombardo a call. Ha ha that would be manic. C-ya and keep groovin.

  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    That's what I was talking about - the band I'm in do "Afro Blue" in 6/8 with kick drum on quarters but percussion playing the 6/8 clave and bell figures. We have 3 percussionists. The bass line is really in 3/4 throughout, but I usually try to break ouy in the solos.
  15. lump


    Jan 17, 2000
    St. Neots, UK
    Is that like "Ole`!"?

    HemisemidemiLemmyquaver...Ouy! Ouy! Ouy! :D

  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Hah - in a minute I will go back and edit it to what I meant and then you will look silly! :)

    I'm glad my typing inefficiencies have made one person happy for the day anyway!

    Swing out Sister! (...?)

    "The Ace of Spades" sung in falsetto!

    ... that's a Lemmyquaver!

    Just a minim, I must be feeling qrotchety today! ;)

    "QuaterMass experiment" anyone ...
  17. lump


    Jan 17, 2000
    St. Neots, UK
    Bwah-hahaha!! :D

    Ordinarily I wouldn't pick on an obvious typo (darned if that "y" ain't right NEXT to the "t"), but there is something about "breaking ouy" in a Latin tune that just kills me. My day has indeed been made.

  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    That's OK - does anyone else remember the tune by "Swing out Sister" - was it called Break OUT or Break Down - I really liked that one for the bass riff, but wasn't sure about the words - whatever happened to them?
  19. Sampoerna

    Sampoerna Guest

    Oct 9, 2000
    W. KY, USA
    I was curious about the status of Swing Out Sister, too, so I did a search for them and ran across <b><a href="http://www.swingoutsister.com/">SwingOutSister.Com</a></b>.

    Apparently, they're still playing and will be releasing a new album next year.
  20. Just a minim, I must be feeling qrotchety today!

    "QuaterMass experiment" anyone ...

    Hee hee hee Nice one Bruce, Nice one, C-YA.