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3/4 Time: A Simple Guide

How to find the beat for triple meter and some modern songs that use it.

You may have heard of the dance known as the waltz. This dance has been around for around 500 years and has been used for music that is in 3/4 time (triple meter). Most EDM music festivals aren’t seeing fans dancing the waltz in hordes, but we still hear 3/4 time employed in a lot of new music.

Before we look at 3/4, let’s look at 4/4, or duple meter. 4/4 time is the most common duple meter and has accents on the beat that sound like this:

Beats: 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

Accent: Strong > Weak > Less Strong > Weak

Try tapping this out to a consistent pulse. Now let’s look at the accents in a triple meter:

Beats: 1 > 2 > 3

Accent: Strong > Weak > Weak

Try tapping this out to a consistent pulse. It has a different feel, doesn’t it? It is also uses an odd number grouping of accents, unlike the even grouping found in 4/4 time or duple meters.

Here are some modern songs in 3/4 that will help you to get a feel for this interesting timing:

  • “Gravity” — John Mayer
  • “You and Me” — Lifehouse
  • “Manic Depression” — Jimi Hendrix
  • “Perfect” — Ed Sheeran
  • “Waltz #2 (X/O)” — Elliot Smith
  • “Nothing Else Matters” — Metallica

Try tapping out the beat when you listen to these songs and you’ll already be on your way to playing them. Eventually, you’ll start to recognize even more tunes that use 3/4 and be able to distinguish between different time signatures on your own.

To learn more about 3/4 time, watch this video. If you're not a Fender Play member yet, click here for a free trial.