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6/8 Strum Patterns?

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# 6/8 Strum Patterns?

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(@ak_guitar)
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Seems to me that generally speaking, you can apply 3/4 strum patterns to 6/8 songs. Am I over simplifying?

Do you know of any general purpose 6/8 strumming patterns?

Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:2-4

(@fretsource)
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6/8 is 'compound duple' time, which means it has two beats per measure and each of those two beats can be further divided by three beats, and counted as 1 > > 2 > > |1 > > 2> >| etc. . It's used in fast jigs, etc.
If played slowly then one measure of 6/8 becomes indestinguishable from 2 measures of "triple time", e.g., 3/8, 3/4, etc.

(@hyperborea)
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If played slowly then one measure of 6/8 becomes indestinguishable from 2 measures of "triple time", e.g., 3/8, 3/4, etc.

Ok, that opens up a question that I've wondered about before. Why bother with 6/8 time then? Why not just have 3/4 time and give a fast tempo indication (either the Italian words, presto or vivace or something, or in bpm)?

Pop music is about stealing pocket money from children. - Ian Anderson

(@fretsource)
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Ok here's another way to look at it. Compare a measure of 6/8 containing six eighth notes, with a measure of 3/4 also containing six eighth notes:

E = accented eighth notes
e = unaccented eighth notes

6/8 = EeeEee (TWO accented beats per measure)
3/4 = Eeeeee (ONE accented beat per measure)

Edit: Ok - that doesn't quite answer your question as you're going to ask "Why not make that measure of 6/8 TWO measures of 3/4 at double the tempo?"
Well... you could but you're then losing sight of the TWO BEATS feel of 6/8 because the two accented beats of 6/8 aren't equally accented. The first is more strongly accented than the second. That's why we hear each measure divide into two. In 3/4 time only the first beat is strongly accented - So there's no difference (in theory) if we compare the accented first beat of a measure with the accented first beat of the next measure. So there won't be the necessary ONE TWO feel that's characteristic of 6/8.
If you use standard notation it's easier to explain
The beat unit of 3/4 is a QUARTER NOTE
The beat unit of 6/8 is the DOTTED QUARTER NOTE

(@noteboat)
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Compound time signatures are simply a way of writing "triplet feel" without having to write out all the triplets.

So 6/8 time = 2/4 time, with each beat dividing into a triplet. If you wanted to, you could write it in 2/4 with triplets, and it would have the exact same feel.

There are lots of time signatures that are interchangeable. Which one a composer chooses is based on the clarity of notation (if there are lots of 32nd notes, writing them in 4/8 as 16th notes would make more sense than using 4/4 and the smaller note values). It also depends a bit on the psychology of conductors - in general, a 3/8 piece will be conducted faster than a 3/4 piece, even if both have the same tempo markings.

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(@fretsource)
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Just to extend the examples a bit...
Take a typical blues song. You can hear the 4 beat per measure grouping very easily. (Beginners rely on those when first playing a 12 bar blues to know when it's time to change to the next chord)
Anyway, you can often also hear each beat can divide into three sub beats, i.e., the characteristic triplet feel, NoteBoat was referring to. It's often heard in the bass as long short long short, etc.
So the song could be written out in simple 4/4 time and the triplets shown in the music or it can be written as its compound equivalent, which is 12/8. As NoteBoat pointed out 6/8 is the same as 2/4 with triplets.
and in the same way, 12/8 is the same as 4/4 with triplets. They're interchangeable.
What you can't do (as you suggested with 6/8) is replace a single bar of 12/8 with 4 bars of 3/4 at double the tempo (or 4 bars of 3/8 at the same tempo). A 12 bar blues would become a 48 bar blues and beginners wouldn't have a clue where to change. I might get a bit lost myself if I thought in those terms

There's also a famous 9/8 piece of music (or 3/4 with triplets). It's the classical guitar piece: Romanza. I don't know if you know it. I've seen both time signatures used in different editions of it.

(@ak_guitar)
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Topic starter

Thanks for all of the in-depth relpies.

I guess where I was comming from is that I have a chord chart written in 6/8. I worked out the following strumming pattern:

1 2a3a4 5a6a (ddududdudu)

The chord changes happen on the first and fourth beats. The strum sounds reasonable with the song's melody. But while I was playing it, it all looked suspiciously like a common 3/4 strum:

1 2a3a1 2a3a (ddududdudu)

So, is my 6/8 pattern valid? From your discussion, I'm just breaking the triplets into two smaller units. So I reckon that's ok or do I have to enforce the triplet feel?

Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:2-4

(@fretsource)
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Many times you won't notice the difference if you do that, but as you were asking what the difference is in theory and why 6/8 exists in the first place it's this :
The difference between 1 2a3a 4 5a6a (1 measure of 6/8)
and
1 2a3a 1 2a3a (2 measures of 3/4)
is that beat 4 in the first example is less stressed than beat 1 in either measure of the second example. That's why we hear 6/8 as two main beats repeating: 1aa2aa. We don't hear that with 3/4 because the first beats are equally accented in every measure. (123 123)
(Not strictly true in practice as some measures are weaker than others)

(@ak_guitar)
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Topic starter

OK, cool, thanks.

In looking more closely, the melody and more specifically the lyrics stress beat 1 over all the others. I guess the strum still sounds good mainly because the rhythm guitar doesn't necessarily have to do the "stressing" because it is already brought out by the melody and lyrics. I bet the drummer would highlight that also. I suppose I could play the bass note only on the first beat to bring it out. I'll give that a try.

Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:2-4

(@nuno)
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Could I add a new related question? Is the 5/4 time also a compound time?

Thanks! :D

(@fretsource)
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Could I add a new related question? Is the 5/4 time also a composed time?

Thanks! :D
You mean 'compound time'? No it's not, it's 'simple time' because 5 can't be further sub divided by 3.

(@hyperborea)
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So the song could be written out in simple 4/4 time and the triplets shown in the music or it can be written as its compound equivalent, which is 12/8.
12/8 for blues is usually for slow blues, right?
There's also a famous 9/8 piece of music (or 3/4 with triplets). It's the classical guitar piece: Romanza. I don't know if you know it. I've seen both time signatures used in different editions of it.
I don't know that piece but I do know Blue Rondo A La Turk by Brubeck which is in 9/8 (know as in have heard it rather than I know how to play it - yet).

Thanks to both you and NoteBoat for your excellent explanations. Let me see if I get it then by summarizing why you use those compound time signatures:
1) for the difference in accent
2) for ease of notation and reading
3) by convention or to take advantage of convention (i.e. 3/8 is faster than 3/4)

Did I miss any?

P.S. Fretsource, I have family in Lanarkshire - the town of Bargeddie.

Pop music is about stealing pocket money from children. - Ian Anderson

(@nuno)
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I'm sorry, yes, I mean 'compound', it is a kind of 'false friend' in Spanish.

But I'm not sure if 'compund' is the word.

Once I did read or somebody told me something like a 5/4 is or could be a kind of '3/2' + '2/2' (or vice versa, I don't remember). But probably it is incorrect. Your previous explanations on how a 6/8 can be undertood as a 3/4 did remember it.

(@fretsource)
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Hyperborea, Yes that sums it up nicely.
Nuno, I hope I didn't give the impression that 6/8 can be understood as 3/4. I was pointing out that a measure of 6/8 isn't really the same as 2 measures of 3/4 (or 3/8) for the reasons that Hyperborea gave above. 6/8 should be understood as a kind of 2/4, not 3/4.
As for 'composed' time signatures. That would actually be a good word to describe what you're talking about, i.e 5/4 = 3/4+2/4. 'Compound' refers to dividing each beat by 3. So we're hearing 'beats within beats'. You're talking about dividing a measure into unequal parts. It's commonly done with those odd time signatures, like 5/4 or 7/8 but I can't think of any word for it. Maybe NoteBoat can help out there.

(@nuno)
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Nuno, I hope I didn't give the impression that 6/8 can be understood as 3/4. I was pointing out that a measure of 6/8 isn't really the same as 2 measures of 3/4 (or 3/8) for the reasons that Hyperborea gave above. 6/8 should be understood as a kind of 2/4, not 3/4.
Ok! I misunderstood the example! Now it's clear. Thanks! :D
As for 'composed' time signatures. That would actually be a good word to describe what you're talking about, i.e 5/4 = 3/4+2/4. 'Compound' refers to dividing each beat by 3. So we're hearing 'beats within beats'. You're talking about dividing a measure into unequal parts. It's commonly done with those odd time signatures, like 5/4 or 7/8 but I can't think of any word for it. Maybe NoteBoat can help out there.
I didn't remember the source. It could be a webpage, a printed book, a conversation with a friend... or a nightmare!

To reformulate my original question, it seems the odd time signatures like 5/4 can be interpreted or understood as two unequal parts, right?

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