About Time Signatures
Alright, let’s get into counting. I know we’ve gotten into this in earlier lessons, but let’s dive into what a time signature is.
Every song has a time signature and usually they maintain one time signature for the entirety of the song. A time signature is basically just the way we describe the feelings of the beats in a bar. Of course, it’s more technical than that, but that’ll give you a good practical understanding of the concept.
So far, all of the strumming patterns that we’ve been learning in this Beginner’s Course have been in 4:4 time, or four beats per bar. When we count beats in the songs we play, we say, “1, 2, 3, 4.” When playing songs in 4:4, we tend to accent the first beat of the bar.
6:8 Time & 3:4 Time
6:8 is another time signature that has six beats per bar. When we count the beats in a bar, we say, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.” But it's important to realise that 6:8 time has two main accents on the 1 and 4, so it's 2 groups of three pulses. The > is the symbol we use to show an accented beat so 6:8 looks like this.
> > 1 2 3 4 5 6
There is another common time signature you might encounter called 3:4 time, and that has just a 3 count "1, 2, 3" and it's this time that is the common 'waltz' feel. If we divide 3:4 time with 'ands' between the beats we also end up with 6 pulses in a bar but the placement of the accents is different from 6:8.
> > > 1 + 2 + 3 +
They are quite similar and you don't have to overthink this - you're much better off just listening and 'feeling' the rhythm for these things.
Get to Know 6:8
6:8 time is more common in pop music so we're going to focus on that for this lesson. The best way to get better acquainted with a time signature like 6:8 is to just listen to songs that use it. While listening, count out loud along with the song, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,” just so you can hear the beats and the accents.
Here are some songs you can listen to using 6:8:
• This Year’s Love David Gray
• Everybody Hurts REM
• Fade Into You Mazzy Star
• Nothing Else Matters Metallica
• Hide Your Love Away - The Beatles
• Kiss from A Rose Seal
Think of six down strums to a bar. Similarly to when we learned 4:4, each beat is a down strum with your up strums representing your “and” beats.
Practice with a metronome set to somewhere around 130 beats per minute. Play one down strum per beat while counting out loud. Once you’ve got that down, work on accenting beats 1 and 4 with the stronger accent on beat 1.
Just like with 4:4 time, the most important thing is keeping your hand moving all the time no matter what up strums you include or down strums you miss. So try to train your hand/arm to get that consistent movement thing down!
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