Lesson: 6/8, 12/8 and 3/4 Time Signaures

Post drum lessons here! Share your talents, give some tips, or get new tips and learn to play new stuff!

Moderator: Moderators

Was This Lesson Helpful To You?

Yes
1
50%
No
1
50%
Maybe So
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 2
User avatar
rlrrll
drumming adept
drumming adept
Posts: 410
Joined: Wed Sep 27, 2006 11:12 pm
Location: Long Beach Ca

Post Wed Feb 25, 2009 2:04 am

More than maybe any other rhythm, triplet time signatures and note groupings cause the most confusion with musicians. Is the song being played in 6/8 or 12/8? What about 6/4?? What is the difference between a bar of 12/8 and a bar of 8th note triplets in 4/4 time??

This lesson aims to clarify these questions.


Example One: 6/8 Time
Image

In 6/8 time, we are playing 6 even notes per the bar, counted 1 2 3 4 5 6. Each note receives one full count, or BEAT. The FIRST and FORTH NOTE of each bar are accented. Notice that 3 notes at a time are beamed together.
Examples of 6/8 are “Oh, Darlin’” by the Beatles, “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers, and “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica. This is very common in Rhythm and Blues music, particularly in RnB Ballads.


Example Two: 12/8 Time
Image
12/8 is essentially the same as 6/8 with a longer phrase.
This time, we count 123 - 456 – 789 - 10 11 12. The accents fall on 1, 4, 7 and 10.
12/8 is the standard groove for BLUES music, songs such as “Dazed and Confused” by Led Zeppelin and “You Shook Me” by Willie Dixon are some of the most well known “12/8 Blues Shuffles”.

What is the difference Between 6/8 and 12/8??

Rhythmically . . . nothing. The only difference is the length of the bar. 12/8 tunes tend to be slower in tempo, but not always.
THE LENGTH OF THE BAR IS DETERMINED BY THE MELODY AND CHORD STRUCTURE OF THE SONG, NOT THE DRUMS!!

For example, listen to the guitar in “Nothing Else Matters”. It uses the same 6 notes, played over and over. It gives the feeling of 12346, 123456 over and over.
Now listen to “Dazed and Confused” It takes 12 beats for the bass line to repeat. Each line of vocals also fits into the 12 beat structure.

It could be said that the difference between 6/8 and 12/8 is the difference between THE BLUES and RnB music.

Example THREE: 3/4 Time
Image

In 3/4 there are still SIX 8th notes to the bar. But this time, we are giving the accents to the Quarter Notes, on beats 1, 2 and 3. So we count 1 + 2 + 3 +. Notice that 2 notes at a time are beamed together. This is commonly called a Waltz – especially when playing Bass, Snare, Snare on the accents. “My Favorite Things” by John Coltrane is perhaps the most famous tune in ¾. “Manic Depression” by Jimi Hendrix is another one. For a more Rock flavor, play the snare on 3 only, like in the song “Caffeine” by Faith No More.

What is the difference between 6/8 and ¾??
In 6/8, the accents are on ONE and FOUR.
In ¾, the accents are on ONE, TWO, and THREE.

That small change in the accents makes a world of difference.


Example Four; 8th Note Triples in 4/4 Time
Image

In this rhythm, we are playing THREE equal notes in between each Quarter Note Pulse.
Since there is no such thing as a “3rd Note” is our style of Western Music Notation, a small “3” must be put above the three 8th notes to show that they are actually being played fast enough to fit evenly into a Quarter Note Pulse. This is called “Artificial Notation” * Notice that 3 notes at a time are beamed together,
The accents are given on beats ONE, TWO, THREE AND FOUR. (The Quarter Note Pulse).
This type of counting is commonly used in half time shuffles, like “Fool in the Rain” by Led Zeppelin and “Rosanna” by Toto, or in fast double time shuffles like “I’m The One” by Van Halen. A great 4/4 rock shuffle is "La Grange" by ZZ Top.

What is the difference between 12/8 and 8th Triplets in 4/4?
Tempo. The practical purpose for using the 8th Triplet counting is that is much easier to count “1 2 3 4” at high tempos and fill in the triplets than it would be to count every 8th note in 12/8 time. Especially at tempos above 120 bpm. Sure, one could write out the groove to “Shy Boy” by David Lee Roth in 12/8, but no one could ever count fast enough to keep up. It only works in 4/4.

Tempo: A Common Thread

All of these examples are dictated by TEMPO as much as by melody. The groove in “I’m The One” by Van Halen used the same notes and accents as “Dazed and Confused” – just A LOT FASTER! So it makes sense for the slow song to be in 12/8 and the faster to be in 4/4.
This is because any constant rhythm fits different note values at different speed.
For instance, 8th notes played at 100 sound fine, but played at 60 bpm, they sound like quarter notes. Sped up to 180 bpm, and 8th notes start to feel like 16th notes. The faster you go, the more your brain starts to put the notes into easier to manage groups of notes – 2, 4, 8 etc.
It’s just not practical to say that your playing 8th notes ate 240 bpm – because at that point no one can count the rhythms. It’s more practical to say that your playing 16ths at 120 bpm. That way your brain can keep up with your sticks.

* A Word about Artificial Notation

Artificial exist for all of the reasons stated in the prior paragraph. What confuses most students is the idea that we can have fewer or less than 8 notes in a bar and still call them 8th notes! To a kid who has just gotten his head Fractions, the idea that there are SIX 8th notes in a bar make no sense at all. Shouldn’t they be 6th Notes at that point?
Well, probably. The problem is that given the system of flags used in modern notation, there was not a way to show triplets. Once the “ONE Flag for 8th Notes, TWO Flags for 16th Notes etc” system was adopted, there wasn’t a way to show 3 notes per beat.
That’s why the Artificial Notation System was adopted.

As I tell my students: Triplet notation only makes sense because we all agree that it does!
Since we all agree, it works.

Here are the songs I gave as Examples:
6/8 songs:
Oh Darlin' : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_RCNGgL9V4
Nothing Else Matters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubtER-ECMwg

12/8 songs
Dazed And Confused : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eIwfym0TbY
You Shook Me : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIwpQE0b0Pk

3/4 songs:
My Favorite Things: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_n-gRS_wdI
Manic Depression: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VI5qpPwE_WI
Caffeine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Deh1HKiI-Fc

4/4 with 8th Triplets
I'm The One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2xVuhib0ag
La Grange : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BYny9l20wc
Fool in the Rain: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=an5AUzXhamk

If you have any questions about this or if any of this is unclear, feel free to post your questions.

Hope this helps!!
Tom Coyne

Drummer/Performer/Teacher/Author

Vic Firth Education Team Member

The Last Dance/Red Lily/The Prophetess/Frankenstein/Mercurine/45 Grave

myspace.com/tomcoynedrumteacher

thelastdance.com
SGarrett
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 5166
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2007 3:59 am

Post Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:15 am

So what you're basically saying is that the only real difference is semantics? I put the accents where the music calls for, does that change the time signature?
"If the goal is for me to give up my reality for your reality, then the goal is for me to give up my self for your self--a goal I have to reject."
User avatar
Alan_
groove master
groove master
Posts: 4204
Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2007 10:47 am
Location: austin, tx

Post Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:23 am

in my opinion semantics has a lot to do with it. Especially with triplets, there's so many ways to write exactly the same thing. for example, I've always counted Oh Darlin and other slow RnB ballads with that groove as 12/8.
User avatar
Alan_
groove master
groove master
Posts: 4204
Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2007 10:47 am
Location: austin, tx

Post Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:27 am

nothing else matters would only work in 6/8, though. If you try to count it as 12/8, you're still going to be left with a "turnaround" bar of 6/8.

I've always counted manic depression as 9/8, but it could just as easily be written as 3/4 with 8th note triplets.

working through a bunch of badly-written charts for musicals definitely contributed to this relative, kind of nebulous approach where I can count something different ways but still interpret the feel the same way.
User avatar
Alan_
groove master
groove master
Posts: 4204
Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2007 10:47 am
Location: austin, tx

Post Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:49 am

good info for people to get their feet wet, definitely!
SGarrett
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 5166
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2007 3:59 am

Post Wed Feb 25, 2009 10:19 am

Dude, just edit your post. :lol:

I'm asking because this is something I've never really understood and have always just played by feel. I used to be able to play Nothing Else Matters on guitar and I always thought it was 8th note triplets in 4/4. I also remember reading a lesson in Modern Drummer a few years back about playing a 6/8 pattern in 3/4. The author said he was teaching a student the 6/8 pattern and when he came back the following week he was playing it a little differently and the author couldn't figure out why until he wrote it out. It turned out to be the exact same pattern in 3/4 because that's how the student naturally felt it.

I recently tracked a blues/rock song in 3/4 and put the main accents on 1 and 3, which made it feel like an 8th note triplet half-time shuffle in 4/4. Is this technically incorrect? It worked well enough to earn me a contract for a 14 song album. I'm honestly asking because I'd like to know, not because I'm trying to be an ass. :)
"If the goal is for me to give up my reality for your reality, then the goal is for me to give up my self for your self--a goal I have to reject."
User avatar
Alan_
groove master
groove master
Posts: 4204
Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2007 10:47 am
Location: austin, tx

Post Wed Feb 25, 2009 11:05 am

I'm not sure about "technically incorrect", because I always go by the dictum "if it feels right, it is right". So, if it works, it's perfect imo.

I'm curious about the groove you're talking about, though. Do you have a recording of it that you are able to post? For me, the one hard-and-fast line I do draw is the difference between a triplet-based groove and 3/4, although I really like going back and forth between the two feels while maintaining a consistent pulse.
User avatar
rlrrll
drumming adept
drumming adept
Posts: 410
Joined: Wed Sep 27, 2006 11:12 pm
Location: Long Beach Ca

Post Wed Feb 25, 2009 12:07 pm

SGarrett wrote:So what you're basically saying is that the only real difference is semantics? I put the accents where the music calls for, does that change the time signature?


No. It's the melody and chord structure that sets the time signature. Not the drummer. We are there "mark" the time for the tune, not dictate it.

So Scott, I wouldn't say you were wrong in either case. If you can play the tune while counting in either system, then your fine. It may or may not matter that the bass player is feeling it in another way. But if your accenting 3/4 and he's feeling 12/8 -- which in fact might sound good because they overlap - you are in fact two different time signatures. It won't make a difference to anyone until you try two write a score for the part, or if you get into a discussion with him about where to accent in the groove -- your gonna be speaking two different languages.

But try to write out all of the parts to a tune and you will run into some practical problems. I write a lot of charts, so this stuff comes up.

Now, the beauty of playing in 3 or 6 or 12 is that they are all easily mixed together and with 4/4. You can go between all of them and they flow seemlessly. That's why it's fun. It's what makes jazz feel "Free" - endless possibilities of overlapping combinations.

So, "Manic Depression" -- could be felt in 3/4 or 9/8 -- but who's gonna count that tune in 9/8 other than a drummer? Those beats are flying by -- where the 3/4 counting is comfortable to keep up with. If a drummer counts to fast wile playing, he/she will tend to sound like it -- especially young players. Fast counting leads to fat breathing and stiff playing.

Could I count "You Shook Me" in 4/4? Sure, but it's so slow that it's gonna be hard to feel and count the subdivisions when it comes time to play a fill. Count in 12 and it's easy.

tc
Tom Coyne

Drummer/Performer/Teacher/Author

Vic Firth Education Team Member

The Last Dance/Red Lily/The Prophetess/Frankenstein/Mercurine/45 Grave

myspace.com/tomcoynedrumteacher

thelastdance.com
User avatar
Alan_
groove master
groove master
Posts: 4204
Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2007 10:47 am
Location: austin, tx

Post Wed Feb 25, 2009 12:14 pm

that's a GREAT point, tom: 'how does it feel to physically utter the syllables when counting?'
User avatar
rlrrll
drumming adept
drumming adept
Posts: 410
Joined: Wed Sep 27, 2006 11:12 pm
Location: Long Beach Ca

Post Wed Feb 25, 2009 12:32 pm

"I recently tracked a blues/rock song in 3/4 and put the main accents on 1 and 3, which made it feel like an 8th note triplet half-time shuffle in 4/4. Is this technically incorrect?" S. Garrett

I'd like to hear that too. Hard to comment otherwise.
are you playing something like this?
Image

I took lessons a long time ago from the is guy in LA named Rick Steel. He had been a student of Burnard Purdies. I went to him because my time sucked!

What we did is we would play to a click set at 25 bpm for 15-30 min. He had me play basic rock grooves while counting 16th notes out loud. I mean super basic (quarters on the hh, 1 &3 on kick, 2 & 4 the snare).

What it made me realize is that at a pulse of 25 bpm, you can find almost any other tempo just by switching to higher note values. Play 8ths at 25bpm, and your at 50. Play triplets at 25, and your at 75. Play 16th, your at 100. You can bounce all around the tempos just by finding one slow tempo that's constant.

What that did for me was it got me to think slower and to relax my feel. By basically feeling everything at a range of 70 to 100 bpm, and then just subdividing from there, I never feel rushed and I can consume huge amounts of notes and spit them out on a drum because I'm taking them in with bigger, more manageable chunks of notes.

So, if I am trying to play "Manic Depression" I'm gonna count in 3 because it's at a manageable tempo. I know where the triplets are based on that slower pulse of three notes passing by. I can feel them, so I don't have to count, which frees up my mind and body to be relaxed.

Let me put it like this: It seems like quarter notes have a range of tempo that makes them sound like quarter notes (something like 60 bpm to 150bpm); 8ths have a range from about 120 to about 200. Anything between 200 and 250 just sounds like 16th notes. Sure, you can say that your playing quarter notes at 280, but in all practicality, they are gonna sound like 16th notes.

tc
Tom Coyne

Drummer/Performer/Teacher/Author

Vic Firth Education Team Member

The Last Dance/Red Lily/The Prophetess/Frankenstein/Mercurine/45 Grave

myspace.com/tomcoynedrumteacher

thelastdance.com
User avatar
rlrrll
drumming adept
drumming adept
Posts: 410
Joined: Wed Sep 27, 2006 11:12 pm
Location: Long Beach Ca

Post Wed Feb 25, 2009 1:03 pm

Try this little exercise . . .

These two bars have the exact same amount of beats (6), and the kick and snare are in the same places. The only difference is the first is in 6/8 time and the second is in 3/4. Play both and notice how much the accents on the hi hat change the feel.

Image

Image
Tom Coyne

Drummer/Performer/Teacher/Author

Vic Firth Education Team Member

The Last Dance/Red Lily/The Prophetess/Frankenstein/Mercurine/45 Grave

myspace.com/tomcoynedrumteacher

thelastdance.com
SGarrett
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 5166
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2007 3:59 am

Post Wed Feb 25, 2009 1:16 pm

Thank you for the very informative replies. :)

Here's that song: http://soundclick.com/share?songid=6661006
The other two posted tracks are JamStix drums and are two I've currently got.

I practice things really slowly a lot, but at 40bpm because my click only goes down to 35bpm and 40 is easier to compound. I usually stay in the 60-100bpm range, though.

I can totally feel the difference in the the 6/8 and 3/4 exercise you posted. Is that where the snare would usually be played in 3/4?
"If the goal is for me to give up my reality for your reality, then the goal is for me to give up my self for your self--a goal I have to reject."
User avatar
Alan_
groove master
groove master
Posts: 4204
Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2007 10:47 am
Location: austin, tx

Post Wed Feb 25, 2009 1:17 pm

I would say the "usual" placement for the snare on 3/4 would be either on "3", or if you're playing a waltz, on "2" and "3".
SGarrett
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 5166
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2007 3:59 am

Post Wed Feb 25, 2009 1:23 pm

Yeah, when I say "usual" I mean the equivalent of 2 and 4 in 4/4. :)
"If the goal is for me to give up my reality for your reality, then the goal is for me to give up my self for your self--a goal I have to reject."
User avatar
rlrrll
drumming adept
drumming adept
Posts: 410
Joined: Wed Sep 27, 2006 11:12 pm
Location: Long Beach Ca

Post Wed Feb 25, 2009 2:54 pm

[quote="SGarrett"]Thank you for the very informative replies. :)

Here's that song: http://soundclick.com/share?songid=6661006
The other two posted tracks are JamStix drums and are two I've currently got.

That's an interesting example.

The lyrics in the verses take 12 beats to repeat, so I'd call that 12/8. But in the heavier part, it switches to a more defined 3/4 pattern -- although the tempo is the same. The whole tune could be written all in 12/8, or in 3/4 and it would be workable because the tempo is comfy for both systems.

I thought it was cool that you played the snare on every 3rd beat in the 12/8 section because it implies a 3/4 feel which shows up later in the song. A nice job of mixing the two feels.
Tom Coyne

Drummer/Performer/Teacher/Author

Vic Firth Education Team Member

The Last Dance/Red Lily/The Prophetess/Frankenstein/Mercurine/45 Grave

myspace.com/tomcoynedrumteacher

thelastdance.com