Almost all students have difficulties with time signatures at some point. One of the most common issues is to understand the ones that look similar such as 3/4 and 6/8. So in this lesson we’ll learn how these and other time basic time signatures are actually different. We’ll see what they are and how they work and we’ll finish with some examples.

Đang xem: Difference between 3/4 and 6/8

So what’s the difference between 3/4 and 6/8?There are 2 main differences between 3/4 and 6/8: the number of beats in every bar and thevalue of those beats. In 3/4, we get three quarter note beats whereas in 6/8, we get two dotted quarter note beats.

These are the 2 crucial differences but since there is more to explore, let’s dive in further.

What's in this Lesson

Understanding the Difference Between 3/4 and 6/8

The confusion between 3/4 and 6/8 usually comes from the fact that both time signatures can hold 6 eighth notes (or 6 quavers) per bar:


The same rhythm notated in 2/2

If we play at the right tempo, those two rhythms sound exactly the same.

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The secret to recognizing a basic time signature is two-fold: First, figure out whether it is simple or compound. Second, ask whether it is duple, triple or quadruple.

When time signatures share the same description – for example 2/2 and 2/4 are both simple duple meters – then it’s a matter of making the notation easier to read. Remember that musical notation is a system of communicating through symbols and so the process of making music is smoother if those symbols are clear to understand.

Common Questions

Can you have more than 4 beats in every bar? Yes, of course. In this lesson we mentioned duple meters (2 beats per bar), triple meters (3 beats per bar) and quadruple meters (4 beats per bar) because these are the basic time signatures. BUT we can have as many beats per bar as we need. These time signatures are known by other labels. The most common of these is probably quintuple meter: five beats in every bar.

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Apart from simple and compound, are there any other types of time signatures? Yes, there are many different types. Most musical genres still use simple and compound time signatures butthere are others such as complex, odd, irrational, additive and fractional. These are more advanced so I’d recommend holding off if you’re only starting out.

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