In this is­sue’s Woodshed Char­lie Grif­fiths ex­am­ines 3/4 time and how the waltz feel fits into mu­sic of The Bea­tles, Hen­drix, Triv­ium and more.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Char­lie Grif­fiths looks at how every­one from The Bea­tles to Hen­drix have used 3/4 time.

Yes, 3/4 time means three quar­ter­notes, or ‘down­beats’ per bar. This feel is tra­di­tion­ally re­ferred to as a waltz, and goes back to the great clas­si­cal com­posers, most fa­mously Strauss’s The Blue Danube. The 3/4 feel has its place in pop and rock mu­sic too and can yield some of­ten creative and in­ter­est­ing re­sults.

If we take The Bea­tles as an ex­am­ple the bridge sec­tions of We Can Work It Out has a very clear ‘1-2-3, 1-2-3’ count. Note that this is is a very dif­fer­ent feel to 6/8 time, which con­tains the same amount of qua­vers (6) but has a dif­fer­ent feel. 6/8 is more like Nor­we­gian Wood (1 and a 2 and a) in which each beat is di­vided up into triplets. These two feels are very com­monly con­fused as count­ing can be quite sub­jec­tive de­pend­ing on the feel and groove of the piece.

Com­pared to com­mon time, which has a very even, sym­met­ri­cal struc­ture, the waltz feel is by its na­ture asym­met­ri­cal. A 4/4 groove typ­i­cally has a back­beat snare em­pha­sis­ing the sec­ond and fourth beats, so each bar can be seen as two beats, fol­lowed by two more beats. As 3/4 doesn’t di­vide equally we can play around with where to place the em­pha­sis. We can ei­ther look at the bar as one beat, fol­lowed by two beats, or as two beats fol­lowed by one.

Our first two ex­am­ples il­lus­trate two dif­fer­ent ways of em­pha­sis­ing the 3/4. Ex­am­ple 1 is a Bea­tles style part which breaks the bar into one, then two quar­ter-notes. Ex­am­ple 2 is in­spired by Billy How­erdel’s play­ing with A Per­fect Cir­cle and splits the three quar­ter notes into two, then one.

Ex­am­ple 3 is a Jimi Hen­drix style riff which in­cor­po­rates a triplet feel. There is still an ob­vi­ous struc­ture of three quar­ter-note down beats, but the count in be­tween the down­beats is ‘1 & a, 2 & a, 3 & a’. This only ef­fects the rhythm of beat 2, but it’s a good idea to keep the count con­sis­tent through­out.

Ex­am­ple 4 is a me­tal riff in the style of Kill­switch En­gage or Triv­ium. There is a re­peat­ing melody on the fourth string, but the bass notes change ev­ery bar; this is a good way of out­lin­ing the time sig­na­ture for the lis­tener. The snare is placed on ev­ery down­beat which gives the 3/4 a more even sound, but at the same time is not as pre­dictable as 4/4.

Some­times you might want to dis­guise the time sig­na­ture a lit­tle to cre­ate rhyth­mic ten­sion. Ex­am­ple 5 il­lus­trates the ef­fect used in Led Zep­pelin’s Kash­mir. The gui­tar riff is in 3/4, with the chord chang­ing ev­ery bar. Against this the drums are play­ing a straight 4/4 groove through­out.

NEXT MONTH Char­lie goes to theWood­shed and en­ters the world of tapped har­mon­ics

com­par ed to com­mon ti me, which has a very even str uc­ture, the walt z feel is by it s very nat ure as­symetri cal

The Bea­tles used waltz time in We Can Work It Out and other songs

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