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Old 11-19-2018, 12:06 PM
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Default What is 6/8 and why does it exist?

My brain is currently wired to 4/4 time it would seem. My brain also likes to resolve melodies within 2 to 4 bars which is stifling a lot of creativity on my part. Why are there different time signatures, other than ease of notating?
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Old 11-19-2018, 12:25 PM
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My brain is currently wired to 4/4 time it would seem. My brain also likes to resolve melodies within 2 to 4 bars which is stifling a lot of creativity on my part. Why are there different time signatures, other than ease of notating?
Hi Barry

Though it can be 'other-than-this' 6/8 time is usually played like 2/4 dived into triplets (rather than 2/4 played with eighth notes in duplet).

In other words it sub-groups the beats into threes rather than twos or fours.

And 12/8 is similar in that it's usually played like 4/4 subdivided into triplets.


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Old 11-19-2018, 12:31 PM
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6/8 would be the time signature used for playing jigs in Irish traditional music. A jig of course is a dance - novices to ITM sometimes play jigs in 4/4 time, not realizing that they're nullifying the whole point of a jig being a jig!
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Old 11-19-2018, 12:50 PM
1neeto 1neeto is offline
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6/8 is one of those time signatures that didn’t make sense to me for a long time. Since a 6/8 piece can be played in 3/4 and sound exactly the same.
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Old 11-19-2018, 01:01 PM
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Why are there different time signatures, other than ease of notating?
It's not just notating, it has to do with the feel, where the pulse is. Simple example, 3/4 is a waltz, think of the Danube Waltz, or Tennessee Waltz, a strong um-pah-pah, while 4/4 is totally different. 5/4 is also different, listen to the sound of "Take Five". It's where the strong and week accents are.

With 6/8, as others have said, it's counted in 2: 1,xx,2xx. 6/8 and 12/8 besides being for jigs, is also the feel of blues (12/8 usually).

As a notational thing, you could write a shuffle blues in 4/4 with everything being triplets, and that'd be the same feel, but 12/8 is easier to read. So some things are related to notation (i.e. communicating with others), but the key is the pulse and feel of each time signature.

There's probably some better demos of this stuff on you tube, but with a quick search, I found this, which seems ok:

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Old 11-19-2018, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by TBman View Post
My brain is currently wired to 4/4 time it would seem. My brain also likes to resolve melodies within 2 to 4 bars which is stifling a lot of creativity on my part. Why are there different time signatures, other than ease of notating?
Hi Barry,

To me the difference between 3/4 and 6/8 is the pulse: 3/4 is odd while 6/8 is even.

In 3/4 you've got an odd count to each bar often, for waltzes anyway, with the accent on the first beat of each measure, ie. | ONE two three | ONE two three | OR it can be counted as | One and Two and Three and | One and Two and Three and | but both give you three distinct beats in each bar.

In 6/8 you get an even count because the bar is divided into two groups of three (rather than three groups of two) usually with the accent on the first beat of each group of three, ie. | One and a Two and a | One and a Two and a | etc. As LJ pointed out, it can often be counted similarly to 2/4 because the accents are simply One Two, One Two, etc.

Hope this helps...

Phil
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Old 11-19-2018, 01:11 PM
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6/8 comes from before triplet notation was a thing. 2/4 is simple time, 6/8 is compound time for 2/4. Compound time was/is used for writing triplet rhythms.

2/4 = 2 notes per beat = 1 & 2 &

6/8 = 3 notes per beat = 1 & a 2 & a


3/4 = 2 notes per beat = 1 & 2 & 3 &

9/8 = 3 notes per beat = 1 & a 2 & a 3 & a


4/4 = 2 notes per beat = 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

12/8 = 3 notes per beat = 1 & a 2 & a 3 & a 4 & a


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Old 11-19-2018, 01:52 PM
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I hope that this is not too much boggle;

There are two distinct classes of time signature. They are called simple time and compound time.

In simple time the beats divide into two. 2/4 3/4 4/4 6/4 are examples, as are 2/2 and 3/2. The top number tells you how many beats there are. The bottom number is how the notes are written. In x/8 beats are written as quavers or 1/8th notes, in x/4 beats are written as crotchets or 1/4 notes and in x/2 beats are written as minims or 1/2 notes.

In compound time the beats divide into three. 3/8 6/8 9/9 and 12/8. Divide the top number by three to find how many beats. In all of these a beat is written as a dotted crotchet or dotted 1/4 note.

There are also irregular time signatures where the music does not naturally fall into equal groupings.
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Old 11-19-2018, 02:20 PM
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6/8 is possibly my favorite time signature. I used to think 6/8 was the same as 3/4... but it's not as others have said.
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Old 11-19-2018, 03:56 PM
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http://www.brassstages.com/acrobat/68supp.PDF
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Old 11-19-2018, 11:09 PM
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Thanks everyone, great stuff to review.
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Old 11-19-2018, 11:43 PM
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Quote:
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Simple and to the point.
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Old 11-20-2018, 02:23 AM
Paddy1951 Paddy1951 is offline
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I have been involved in IrishTrad music for over twenty years. Guitar is not my main instrument for trad.

I teach the bodhran (the Irish drum) at the Irish Fest School of Music.
I find that it is easier for students to understand 6/8 by use of a phrase rather than counting. The accents are on the one and four. ie.

SEE - the - hi -BER - ni - an

EL- e - gant - EL - e - phant

BOT -tle - of - JA - mes - on

This has worked well for me. Students seem to grasp the feel of this time signature more easily. By repeating any of these phrases out loud or in their heads, the feel or pulse (two) becomes apparent.

As to the purpose... Irish Traditional Music is dance music, first. The Jig being a major part of it.

I hope that helps.
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Old 11-20-2018, 03:49 AM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TBman View Post
My brain is currently wired to 4/4 time it would seem. My brain also likes to resolve melodies within 2 to 4 bars which is stifling a lot of creativity on my part. Why are there different time signatures, other than ease of notating?
Hi TB man,

6/8 time was my favourite time signature when I was a drummer in R&B bands back in the '60s.

I can't explain it to you like others, as my playing (drums or guitar) has always been instinctive, but here are a couple of examples.

Here a a bland example for a slow blues accompaniment that you can solo over :




Also remember that Percy sledge hit - "When a Man Loves A woman" which is the first song in 6/8 that comes to mind

Here it is :

Note. Here in the UK we have a weekly competition show where "celebs" are taught to dance - called "Strictly Come Dancing" and I believe that in the US there is a version called "Dancing with the Stars".

In both these shows, when they dance a waltz, the bad always plays pop songs in 6/8 (and not 3/4), probably because pop songs ballads don't use 3/4 much now.

See this :

Watch from 2.00 and stop at 3.29 before you get to the sickly parts.

So, the basic ballad 6/8 is like ONE ,2,3, FOUR!,5,6 - ONE, 2,3 FOUR! 5,6,

Often it is more like 1,2,3,FOUR,5,6, etc.

See this ;

(I'd rather Go blind?)



In contrast, to show the difference between 6/8 and 3/4 - here IS a proper 3/4 Waltz :



Here's a drummer (left handed) describing this ....which ...may ....help (?)



Hope that helps - I LOOOOVE 6/8!
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Old 11-20-2018, 04:34 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1neeto View Post
6/8 is one of those time signatures that didn’t make sense to me for a long time. Since a 6/8 piece can be played in 3/4 and sound exactly the same.
Well, it can sometimes sound like a pair of 3/4 bars, and it would be a subtle difference in that case. For two 3/4 bars to be better written as 6/8, there would need to be a clear difference between the downbeats of alternate bars.

Another argument for making pairs of 3/4 bars into single 6/8 bars - in addition to that subtle rhythmic emphasis - would be the harmonic rhythm (rate of chord change). If the chords change every two 3/4 bars (as well as a weaker downbeat on the second of each pair) then 6/8 makes a lot of sense. (In some case, 6/4 would be better, but that's rare.) Harmonic rhythm is often a good way to decide between 6/8 and 12/8.

A single bar of 6/8 can be made to sound like a single bar of 3/4 - and vice versa - by means of cross-rhythm, but normally a piece will be clearly in one or the other for the most part.
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