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3/4 or 4/4 time?

10 Feb 17 - 02:29 PM (#3838100)
Subject: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: Andy7

What are the advantages/disadvantages of 3/4 time and of 4/4 time?

Apart from the obvious (no one would write a song called 'The Last Waltz' in 4/4!), is each of these time signatures better suited to certain types of songs and tunes?

And if you write your own songs or tunes ... do you start off with a time signature in mind, or does it just evolve along with the song?

10 Feb 17 - 02:31 PM (#3838102)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: Dave the Gnome

Dunno about the other questions but as an aspiring musician (currently failing) I find 3/4 far easier to play in than any other signature. Could be how my brain works. Or doesn't

:D tG

10 Feb 17 - 02:37 PM (#3838106)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: The Sandman

there are no advantages or disadvantages they are just time signatures, they are what they are, 3/4 can be a waltz it can also be a mazurka. 4/4 can be a march or a reel or bouree even sometimes hornpipes have been written in 4/4.
the best thing to do is listen carefully with your ears, select examples on you tube and listen

10 Feb 17 - 03:29 PM (#3838123)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: Joe Offer

I think that to a great extent, the meter of the lyrics will set the meter of the music. They say that normal English speech is chiefly iambic pentameter, and that fits better into 4/4 time - which may be why "common" time is more frequently seen that waltz time.

10 Feb 17 - 06:40 PM (#3838152)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: Jack Campin

Iambic pentameter really ought to be 15/8...

6/8 or 9/8 fit quite a lot of common English verse patterns.

10 Feb 17 - 07:23 PM (#3838155)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: Joe Offer

Yeah, but there's always a bit of a pause or retard at the ends of lines, so it drags out to 16/8, 8/4, or two lines of 4/4...

10 Feb 17 - 08:16 PM (#3838162)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: Steve Shaw

I love the 3/4 songs of Shane McGowan. Rainy Night in Soho, Fairytale, Pair of Brown Eyes...

10 Feb 17 - 08:41 PM (#3838168)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: llareggyb

Funny timing for this question: Recently I couldn't get "My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose" out of my head, with the familiar tune "Low down in the Broom" played as a waltz! So I had to exorcise it by writing an arrangement in 3/4, which (IMHO) works very well. Thus while I mostly agree that the lyrics suggest a rhythm, some songs can easily make the 4/4 - 3/4 switch.

Sheet music available at Score Exchange, Accordion Band arrangement & Voice & Piano -- or contact me here.

BTW, Pre-renaissance composers considered triple time "Perfect", 2/4 or 4/4 "Imperfect".

11 Feb 17 - 04:09 AM (#3838189)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: Mo the caller

Like DavetG I find 3/4 easier to play, the tunes are usually slower.
A lot of songs are in 3/4.

11 Feb 17 - 06:37 AM (#3838226)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: FreddyHeadey

'Only Remembered' as a hymn is in 4.
So too in War Horse yet Tim van Eyken manages to slip neatly from 3 to 4 in the first verse here
I wonder if he intended to start like that ;-)?

CoopBoyesSimpson do it in 3.

I love the 3x3 of a slip jig for not giving the chance of a breath here!
Arthur O'Bradley :

11 Feb 17 - 06:53 AM (#3838231)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: Will Fly

Why not have the best of both worlds?

Here's a little tune I put together for mandolin or fiddle which switches between 4/4, 3/4 and 2/4 - just for fun.

Will Fly - The Lurcher

It's called The Lurcher 'cos it 'lurches' between time signatures...

11 Feb 17 - 07:21 AM (#3838237)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: The Sandman

"A lot of songs are in 3/4" a lot of songs are also in 4/4 and 6/8.5/4 is a intersting too as is 9/8

11 Feb 17 - 04:17 PM (#3838318)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?

For a good example of 4/4 to 3/4 listen to what Joe Cocker did with the Beatles song "With A Little Help From My Friends"

11 Feb 17 - 04:58 PM (#3838324)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: Tattie Bogle

It's a rock'n'roll thing, so bands will turn what were originally 3/4 songs into 4/4 ("4 on the floor") timing. (Thinking of some versions I've heard of Dougie Maclean's "Caledonia" , and The Corries' version of "Rose of Allendale" which is, IMHO, so much nicer in a gentle 3/4 as e.g. The Watersons sing it.
And also, worth remembering that, whatever the time signature, a slow air is a slow air, and can be played as rubato as you like, and does not need a dominating rhythm to it.

11 Feb 17 - 05:51 PM (#3838334)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: Joe_F

H. L. Mencken (b. 1880) thought that waltz time was inherently erotic. He asked: What is the point of banning pornography if you allow waltzes?

12 Feb 17 - 04:08 PM (#3838508)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: GUEST,Captain Swing

I'm a novice composer of tunes of various styles. I've noticed that I have many more tunes in 3/4 than 4/4. This isn't a direct preference. I think I find the rhythmic restrictions of 3/4 make it easier to make decisions about which way a tune should proceed. 4/4 gives me too much scope - the choices are overwhelming.

12 Feb 17 - 06:29 PM (#3838521)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: FreddyHeadey

? In case anyone else is looking for it.... "The waltz is magnificently improper -- the art of tone turned lubricious. There is something about a waltz that is irresistible. ..."
H.L. Mencken, 1919.
Unfortunately I couldn't actually find the quote about "banning pornography" :-( That would make a much better t-shirt.

12 Feb 17 - 07:47 PM (#3838534)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: GUEST,Sol

Personally, I think the tango is closer to pornography than waltzes will ever be.

12 Feb 17 - 07:55 PM (#3838538)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: Bill D

I think that "Andy's Gone With Cattle" feels almost silly in 3/4... but most times I've heard it, that's what they fall into.

I like the way Gerry Hallom did it..

12 Feb 17 - 08:57 PM (#3838550)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: GUEST,Gerry

These are difficult tines.

12 Feb 17 - 10:01 PM (#3838555)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle

What a delightful thread.

I have sincerely learned from all who have posted.


My original, knee jerk reaction was "what an idjet question". There is much more here than a "band concert in the patk".

13 Feb 17 - 08:59 AM (#3838635)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: clueless don

This is purely a personal opinion, but I have never liked The Star of the County Down when it is sung in 4/4.


13 Feb 17 - 09:04 AM (#3838637)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: The Sandman

andys gone should be sung freely.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5w75f_Lz_A

13 Feb 17 - 09:08 AM (#3838639)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: Steve Shaw

I've heard Hard Times of Old England done in both 3/4 and 6/8 (not at the same time, obviously!)

13 Feb 17 - 02:51 PM (#3838715)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: Murray MacLeod

I had a feeling i had started a thread on this very subject some years ago ... found it ... Here

13 Feb 17 - 09:03 PM (#3838777)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: Joe_F

Freddy: I dare say the crack about pornography is in one of the Mencken books on my shelf, but only two of them have indexes and it is not in either.

It is perhaps worth noting, however, that the OED s.v. waltz has a citation from an 1825 art handbook: "_Waltz_, in Music, the name of a riotous and indecent German dance". I gather that the indecency in those days, tho, was not attributed to the 3/4 time, but to the fact that the dancers were in physical contact.

14 Feb 17 - 12:28 PM (#3838936)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: GUEST,Desi C

For me I prefer to play and write in 4/4 though 3/4 was easier to lratn to play. But 3/4 is generally for Waltz tunes and 4/4 more for quick steps etc, but really it's as much down to personal taste as anything, and some songs can be done in either tempo i.e most people play the Irish song Raglan Road, but I usually do it in 3/4 same with the classic Country ballad The Blue Side Of Lonesome

14 Feb 17 - 06:28 PM (#3839003)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: GUEST,John P

When I compose tunes, some portion of it springs into my head fully formed, then I figure out what time it's in. I don't seem to have an unconscious preference.

4/4 often has more drive than 3/4, which is often more laid back. The backbeat, of course, is a 4/4 thing.

15 Feb 17 - 01:13 AM (#3839017)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: The Sandman

as regards writing songs and speech rhythm why not study Peggy Seeger and MacColl. here is an extract of an interview with them
"The writing of the songs took me about a month or maybe a little longer. Peggy spent another two weeks on the musical arrangements . We then made rough tapes of the songs and played them to Sam Larner, Ronnie Balls and anyone else who was prepared to listen to them. Occasionally they would criticise a word or a line or a phrase or question a piece of information, whereupon I would rewrite the offending line or phrase and go on rewriting it until it met with approval. There were rare and wonderful occasions when Sam or one of the other fishermen would claim to have known all his life a song which I had just written. When this happened, we know we had really come close to capturing the true effect of the fishing life upon these men.

The studio work on JOHN AXON and SONG OF A ROAD had consisted of two days' intensive work with singers and musicians, during which songs and linking/descriptive music would be recorded. The marrying of music, song and actuality was performed by Charles Parker, the producer of the programmes. The studio technique of SINGING THE FISHING was entirely different from that of the previous two Radio Ballads. Actuality was now edited, timed and assembled in sequence on master-tapes and sound effect sequences were built up on additional spools - before the recording of the songs and music. Tape machines for feeding in actuality and sound effects were installed in the performance area of the studio and tape machine operators became members of the musical ensemble. That was Charles' idea and by adopting this procedure it became possible to record complete sequences of SINGING THE FISHING, sequences in which actuality , song, music and sound effects were simultaneously integrated into the final form. Singers and musicians were no longer in the dark but could match their performance to every nuance of speech in the actuality. Singers could now alter vocal density so as to complement or ride with a speaker's change of pitch occasioned by the raising or lowering to the emotional level. Musicians could now learn the breathing patterns in a piece of actuality and synchronise musical entries and exits so that speech and mucic became a single, unbroken line. In the same way, pulses and rhythms of speech could be matched exactly by a musical instrument without destroying the guidelines of the musical arrangements. For the tape machine operators it meant that actuality feed-ins cold be conceived as continuations of a melodic line, that the first heavily accented word in a passage of speech could be made to coincide with the accented beats in a bar of music, that short passages of actuality could be interpolated between the verses of a song in place of musical tags, or that they could be fed between two lines of a stanza and serve as refrains.

15 Feb 17 - 01:13 PM (#3839145)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: GUEST,Pete from seven stars link

That's a nice jolly ditty , Will , but I didn't try to identify the diverse timings

15 Feb 17 - 04:11 PM (#3839169)
Subject: RE: 3/4 or 4/4 time?
From: Will Fly

That's good, Pete - if the joins aren't too obvious then it works OK!