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The difference between 3/4 and 6/8 – take the quiz!

Bron, in Music lessons
Nov 16, 2020 | 2 min read

Never made sense of the difference between 3/4 and 6/8 – or just time signatures in general? We’ve got you. Don’t forget to take our short listening quiz at the end to test your ears!

If we’re thinking purely mathematically, 3/4 and 6/8 should be the same thing – simplify 6/8 and you get 3/4. 

But, time signatures aren’t fractions – in music, 3/4 is something different from 6/8. (For a quick refresher on time signatures, check out our short guide to Rhythm Basics.)

Even though both 3/4 and 6/8 have six eighth notes in each measure, the way we group them is what differentiates them.

Both 3/4 and 6/8 have six eighth notes in a measure, but what separates them is how we group them.

In 3/4, we group the eighth notes in twos, resulting in 3 strong beats in a measure – on the quarter note beats.

In 6/8, we group the eighth notes in threes, resulting in 2 strong beats in a measure – on the dotted quarters.

In standard music notation practice, we beam notes in such a way that the first note of each grouping is the strongest.

Try vocalizing the beats, keeping the eighth notes at the same speed:
“ONE and TWO and THREE and”
“ONE and a TWO and a”

You’ll find that the feel of the two are completely different!

In conclusion, the difference between 3/4 and 6/8: we hear and feel 3/4 in 3, whereas we hear and feel 6/8 in two. 3/4 has three groups of two; 6/8 has two groups of three.

Test yourself!

Can you tell whether these songs are in 3/4 or 6/8? Answers below. (Don’t scroll past the image if you don’t want spoilers!)

  1. We Are The Champions – Queen
  2. Slavonic Dance Op.72, No. 2  – Antonín Dvořák
  3. Are You Lonesome Tonight? – Elvis Presley
  4. Piano Man – Billy Joel
  5. My Favorite Things – Julie Andrews

Answers: 2, 3, 5 are 3/4 while 1, 4 are 6/8

How did you do? It can get tricky when “ONE and a” feels like a fast “ONE two three”. Check out our guide to identifying time signatures for how to decode this enigma!


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Got a question about Soundbrenner wearables? Reach out to us at [email protected], we’re happy to help!

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