How To Use Meters To Make Your Writing Better
4/4 is so early 2000’s!
Seriously, how many pop tracks do you remember with the same drum beat and bassline with the same chord progression for the exact same amount of time?
It is easy to get stuck writing what you hear because we simply get inspired by other music. The question then is, how do we break free from what we are comfortable with?
Writing in different meters can help break the monotony in our writing. I briefly mentioned this before in a previous post.
Today we’ll talk about writing in 3/4 and 6/8 and look at the structure of those meters and another way to twist it around a little.
Let’s start with 3/4 and the simplest approach.
Writing In 3/4
To clarify, 4/4 means there are 4 quarter notes per measure. 3/4, therefore, means there are only 3 quarter notes per measure. See the example below to see the relationship.
The first measure shows 4 quarter notes per measure and the second measure shows 3 quarter notes or beats per measure.
With our understanding of 3/4, listen to the track below and hear how each measure is in clear groups of 3 beats.
This example takes a simple approach to writing in 3 by simply accenting each of the beats. Emphasizing each beat of a measure is a common technique used in pop music in 4/4. You should be familiar with the beat 4 on the floor.
3/4 In 2?
3/4 is interesting because it has another type of macro beat to it that sounds rhythmically pleasing. It can be cut in half and have a two feel.
That sounds a little tricky, but let’s look at how it’s written.
While this example looks a little intimidating, we can simplify it by following our 3 beats we are used to.
Take a look at the first measure, that is our 3 beats per measure we already identified. The second measure simply cuts each beat in half. The next measure is the same eighth notes as measure two, but the groupings are 3 instead of 2. The last measure simply takes the larger group and makes it into 2 large beats per measure.
Tricky… but it is very easy to hear. Listen to the example below.
This is the second half of our previous example, and notice how it goes from 3 beats a measure to 2 beats. The 2 beat grouping feels “slower” since it has larger rhythmic values.
This technique has a unique effect on the listener because it is like going into half time in 4/4, when everything doubles in length.
Writing In 6/8
3/4 is not the only meter we are looking at today. 6/8 is another common meter in music. One particular sound you are used to is the 50’s rock feel.
Let’s look at the rhythmic breakdown of 6/8.
6/8, unlike 4/4, is based in eighth notes. This means there will be 6 eighth notes per measure and those are our beats. 6/8 is also unique in the fact that those groupings of 3 eighth notes always can be made into 2 larger beats.
Listen to the track below to hear our 3 groups of eighth notes and the underlying 2 beats per measure.
6/8 and 3/4 Aren’t So Different
6/8 just like 3/4 can also be twisted around to find new rhythms inside of it. Look at the example below to see how we arrive from 6/7 to 3/4!
The above example exploits the fact that 6/8 and 3/4 have the same amount of eighth notes per measure. That concept makes it easy to go between them to create a sudden change in feel.
Listen to the example below to hear the sudden change to 3 smaller beats from our 2 big beats.
Using 6/8 and 3/4 can help spark new ideas in your writing and break free from the patterns and techniques you are used to in 4/4. Hopefully, with this blog you can understand more ways to manipulate and write in 3/4 and 6/8 to make them your own!
If you have questions or requests for topics, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Hi, I’m Cj Rhen, a composer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. You can find my work at cjrhenmusic.com or on sounds.com and Landr, where I write and record high-end sax and horn loops for your music. Feel free to contact me with questions and inquiries about private lessons in all things writing!