What is the difference of 3/4 and 6/8?

Dreaux

Junior Member
Hi everyone. I've been lingering here for quite some time and finally decieded to join. I have been playing drums for quite a while in my teens and twenties. I have been at it again for several months now after a few years of not playing. This is irrelevant mostly, just posting a bit about myself.

My question i have is, what is the difference between 3/4 and 6/8? I have always understood 3/4 to be basically a odd sig (it is), but like a waltz 123/123. I always figured 6/8 as 6 straight notes in a measure in either triplets (blues) or straight in a odd rock groove. Well I watched a vid yesterday and the guy was playing 8th notes in 3/4 which I guess is the quarters subdivided into eights.

So I guess 3/4 is three counts before the measure starts over and 6/8 is 6 counts before it starts over regardless of what notes you play? If I play 16ths in 6/8 that would be 12 notes counted as 6?

Does this sound right? Or am I wrong?
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
Hi everyone. I've been lingering here for quite some time and finally decieded to join. I have been playing drums for quite a while in my teens and twenties. I have been at it again for several months now after a few years of not playing. This is irrelevant mostly, just posting a bit about myself.

My question i have is, what is the difference between 3/4 and 6/8? I have always understood 3/4 to be basically a odd sig (it is), but like a waltz 123/123. I always figured 6/8 as 6 straight notes in a measure in either triplets (blues) or straight in a odd rock groove. Well I watched a vid yesterday and the guy was playing 8th notes in 3/4 which I guess is the quarters subdivided into eights.

So I guess 3/4 is three counts before the measure starts over and 6/8 is 6 counts before it starts over regardless of what notes you play? If I play 16ths in 6/8 that would be 12 notes counted as 6?

Does this sound right? Or am I wrong?
They both denote a time signature, 3/4 is 3 quarter notes per measure, 6/8 is 6 8th notes per measure, now you can play these time signatures and have a hi-hat pattern played with a subdivision of the note used as the "pulse" of the time, so if you play 16th notes on the HH in a 6/8 time signature, you'll play 12 16th notes per measure, equally, if you play 16 th notes on the HH in a 3/4 time signature, you still play 12 16th notes per measure, the relation of the note value remained unchanged, regardless of which time signature you're actually playing :)

Hope this helps :)
 

Dreaux

Junior Member
Do you tap your foot 3 times, or 6/2?
That's what I mean. I would count 1-2-3 then start over, all being quarter notes. But is 6/8 1&2&3&? Sems like 8th notes in 3/4. So I am thinking 6/8 to be 123456. A shuffle or swing feel would be at the interpretation of the musician.

How about 3/8? That makes my brain hurt!
 

Dreaux

Junior Member
They both denote a time signature, 3/4 is 3 quarter notes per measure, 6/8 is 6 8th notes per measure, now you can play these time signatures and have a hi-hat pattern played with a subdivision of the note used as the "pulse" of the time, so if you play 16th notes on the HH in a 6/8 time signature, you'll play 12 16th notes per measure, equally, if you play 16 th notes on the HH in a 3/4 time signature, you still play 12 16th notes per measure, the relation of the note value remained unchanged, regardless of which time signature you're actually playing :)

Hope this helps :)
Yeah. That is what I was thinking but I wanted to be clear. Thanks everyone for the help.
 
A

Anthony Amodeo

Guest
That's what I mean. I would count 1-2-3 then start over, all being quarter notes. But is 6/8 1&2&3&? Sems like 8th notes in 3/4. So I am thinking 6/8 to be 123456. A shuffle or swing feel would be at the interpretation of the musician.

How about 3/8? That makes my brain hurt!
in 6/8 you would count to 6

think of a time signature like this

top number = how high you count

bottom number = the notes value
 

Fuo

Platinum Member
That's what I mean. I would count 1-2-3 then start over, all being quarter notes. But is 6/8 1&2&3&? Sems like 8th notes in 3/4. So I am thinking 6/8 to be 123456. A shuffle or swing feel would be at the interpretation of the musician.

How about 3/8? That makes my brain hurt!
Yea I know what you mean. I don't think its 3/4 vs. 6/8 that you need help with, its 6/8 (x2) vs. 12/8 vs. 4/4 (with 1/8 triplets). I don't know either ;)
 
There doesnt really seem to be a common consensus with this issue in my experience. Some guys think in three, other guys think in six, and the argument is usually moot, because they are essentially the same thing.
I think in six when there is a melodic phrase that would push a bar to sound more natural if counted in six, rather than in three (as seen in John Mayers Gravity).
There are other issues, like in the chorus of Screaming Headless Torso's Free Man that is 100% in six, because the downbeat is strong on the 'one', rather than the typical strong downbeat on the one and the strong pulse on three in a waltz-feel type deely.
 

Drumfy

Member
My old drum teacher used to talk about 6/8 a lot. Before that, I couldn't see why the difference mattered. Defining the beat, and then setting up a time signature that corresponds with that, can be a helpful tool. For instance, if there are two solid knocks in each bar, and the rest of the notes are light, then maybe a 2/4 with triplets is a good notation. 3/4 has a distinctively different beat from 6/8. I guess sometimes one can feel more comfortable than the other. I don't think there are any rules that you can go to jail for braking though : )
 

bosman

Senior Member
Simply, 3/4 is a triple meter and 6/8 is a duple meter.

One way I like to think about it is the phrasing and feel within the measure.

3/4, most times you see the eight note in groups of two. (1&2&3&) What is usually the strong beat or count in 3/4? Count one. ONE two three. Definite three feeling.

6/8 is a duple meter. The strong beats are usually 1 & 4. ONE two three FOUR five six.

Of course this is all subject to endless debate. One could call 12/8 a 4/4 with triplets. One could call 2/2 a 4/4 with half notes. Its all the feel, tempo, and phrasing of the music. Whatever is said, there is a clear distinction between duple and triple meter. (6/8 and 3/4)
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
It's usually an accent or feel thing.

For example, let's look at two examples of 6 notes played together, first I'll put the snare hit(accent) on say, the 3. This is quite assuredly 3/4:
xxXxxX
123123

But what if my accent pattern was more like this(bolded note is accent)?:
xxxXxx
123456

In this case, there are six notes to the measure, and since the first accent is on the 4, it doesn't make sense to call this 3/4 in my mind. So I'd think of it and count in 6. It's obviously still countable and dividable by 3, but if you did that, you'd have to call it two differently accented sets of 3.

If the part can be played and repeated in 3's, then I count it as a 3. If there's an accent or feel that defines the part to be played over 6 before repeating, then I'd call it a 6.
 

wsabol

Gold Member
Simply, 3/4 is a triple meter and 6/8 is a duple meter.

One way I like to think about it is the phrasing and feel within the measure.

3/4, most times you see the eight note in groups of two. (1&2&3&) What is usually the strong beat or count in 3/4? Count one. ONE two three. Definite three feeling.

6/8 is a duple meter. The strong beats are usually 1 & 4. ONE two three FOUR five six.

Of course this is all subject to endless debate. One could call 12/8 a 4/4 with triplets. One could call 2/2 a 4/4 with half notes. Its all the feel, tempo, and phrasing of the music. Whatever is said, there is a clear distinction between duple and triple meter. (6/8 and 3/4)
This. He beat me to it.

And yes, this is all subject to endless debate. Its really up to the composer whether he selects 6/4, 6/8, 12/8, or the like. It has to do the the phrasing of the song, and the feel. A lot of it has to do with the ease of notating the music too. Its all very subjective when you boil down to it. I could notate Cold Sweat in 15/16 if you asked me too. It would just be a bitch to read.
 

Swiss Matthias

Platinum Member
Wow, a perfectly clean and polite meter thread :)!
I think there's nothing to be said. All well explained
by my fellow posters above.

I especially second the 3/4 = 1+2+3+ versus 6/8 = ONE two three FOUR five six thing.
So I mostly feel 6/8 (or 12/8 for that matter) as a triplet thing.
 
Simply, 3/4 is a triple meter and 6/8 is a duple meter.

One way I like to think about it is the phrasing and feel within the measure.

3/4, most times you see the eight note in groups of two. (1&2&3&) What is usually the strong beat or count in 3/4? Count one. ONE two three. Definite three feeling.

6/8 is a duple meter. The strong beats are usually 1 & 4. ONE two three FOUR five six.

Of course this is all subject to endless debate. One could call 12/8 a 4/4 with triplets. One could call 2/2 a 4/4 with half notes. Its all the feel, tempo, and phrasing of the music. Whatever is said, there is a clear distinction between duple and triple meter. (6/8 and 3/4)
this is the explanation that my band director gave me when i asked him, and i think it makes total sense. its all on the phrasing (and feel).
 

Drumolator

Platinum Member
For me the difference is that I love playing in 6/8 and do not care for playing 3/4. That does not help the discussion much, but that is how I see it. Peace, goodwill, and blues.
 

groove1

Silver Member
The differences have been covered already. If the 6/8 is relatively slow, I think in 6/8. If it
is fast I think in 3 unless there is something else going on that forces me to think in 6.
ouch!
 
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