Explaining the difference between 3/4 and 6/8

As a music student, you must have come across this question at one point or the other. A lot of people long to know the difference between ¾ and 6/8. Even musical students have issues differentiating between these time signatures at one point or the other during their study.

If you take a look at ¾ and 6/8, you may think that they appear quite similar. In this article, we’ll take a look at the difference between these two-time signatures and take some examples from others. We’ll take a look at what they are, how they work and then some examples.

What’s the difference between ¾ and 6/8?

Well, there are two main differences to note between these two-time signatures. These differences are;

  • The number of beats in every bar
  • The value of these beats

To put it simply, ¾ gives us three quarter-note beats while 6/8 gives you two dotted quarter note beats. The main confusion between these time signatures is that both of them can bold 6 eight notes per bar. The fact that both signatures are capable of holding 6 eight notes. This may make them seem like they are the same but there’s really a difference. So, what makes the difference between ¾ and 6/8?

As we’ve said earlier, these beats are the difference between both. A ¾ time signature has three quarter-note beats per bar. This means that you’ll get a strong beat after. In this time signature, there are ¾ quarter note beats and the first beat is usually the strongest beat.

However, 6/8 gives us two dotted quarter note beats in each bar. This means that the beat occurs after every two dotted quarter note beats. Now, when you listen to both of them the difference is usually clear. This is usually obvious in the effect which is produced.

6/8 has two groups of 3 eighth notes while ¾ consists of two groups of 2 eighth notes. This means that they have 2 beats of 3 eighth notes and 3 beats of 2 eighth notes respectively. A group means the same thing as one beat.

They’re also a difference between the notations which are used for these different time signatures. They are represented differently on notations. The ¾ time signature is written with one beam across its eight notes. The rules of notation state that beats can be grouped together as long as the first beat is the strongest of the group. ¾ consists of a grouping of 6 eighth notes.

The major difference between both time signatures the beats and strong beat. This is the reason why both of them are completely used for varying applications. Because of its three groups, the ¾ is referred to as a triple meter. But the 6/8 is named duplex meter owing to its two groups. Another difference to note is that the quarter note beats in the ¾ time signature can be divided by two. This gives it the name simple meter. However, 6/8 has dotted quarter beats which are easily divisible by 3. This is why it is referred to as a compound meter. Basically, you have to understand that if you include them in a particular melody, they’ll produce a variety of effects depending on the composer and genre of music. But the difference between both of them is noticeable in how they sound.

Examples of the ¾ time signature

The ¾ time signature may not be as common as the 4/4 but you can still hear it being used frequently. It is a popular part of different genres and music. Notable examples of the use of this time signature are an extract from Shostakovich’s Second Waltz, Minuet and so on. A trip into the history of music will also reveal applications such as the beginning part of My Favorite Things.

Examples of the 6/8 time signature

Let’s take a look at some examples of the 6/8 time signature. Notable applications of this time signature include The Old Castle. This example is impressive as it shows 3 different types of rhythms in the signature at the same time. Another example of a great tune is gotten from the band; Queen. You will also get a notable application for this from 1784 in the song; Plaisir D’Amour. The beginning part of the song offers a sweet melody to the whole tune.

How to recognize time signatures?

Time signatures are a very important part of the music. If you want to make good music, you would need a good understanding of these signatures. Examples of common time signatures include; ¾, 6/3, 2/2, 4/4 and so on.

Recognizing time signatures has to deal with two major points.  These are:

  1. By the number of beats in each bar. A time signature which consists of two beats per bar is known as a duple meter. Having 3 beats per bar is referred to as a triple meter while 4 beats per bar are referred to as a quadruple meter. The number at the top of the time signature is used to represent the number of beats per bar.
  2. By whether the beats can easily be divided by 2 (referred to as simple meter) or by 3 (referred to as compound meters). This number is usually indicated by the number at the bottom of the time signature.

These two numbers usually represent the differences between a variety of time signatures. When taking a look at these numbers, you’re about to differentiate if the time signature is single, triple or quadruple and if it is single or compound.

When you’re able to recognize the difference between two-time signatures. There are a lot of other time signatures to explore improved musical awareness. As a music student, you’ll now probably be able to recognize these signatures and avoid any confusion about what you’re dealing with.

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