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Waltz Time or 3/4 Time

Waltz time or 3/4 time, is part 15 in a 31 part series on musical notation and basic music theory. Although there are a variety of dances with 3/4 time, it has almost become synonymous with waltz time!

The 3 on top stands for 3 beats per measure and the 4 on the bottom tells us that the quarter note (just like 1/4) is the "pulse". If you count 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3 over and over again with a slight accent on the 1, you'll feel this meter!

For a review on the top and bottom numbers, look at part 14, Common Time or 4/4 Time Signature


This is also an example of triple meter. We'll cover duple and triple meter fully in part 16, Music Meter, 6/8 Time and Cut Time

¾ time, like the rest of the time signatures, actually grew out of dance and movement to music. The music came first and as civilization became more educated, we needed a way to notate the things we were hearing and playing.

Waltz Time

Johann Strauss II (1825-1899) is considered by many, the father of the waltz. Although his father tried to literally "beat" the music out of him, he went on to write some of the greatest music of all time. He is most famous for The Blue Danube, which you can't be from planet earth and have never heard.

It's used in movies, commercials, cartoons, ice skating competitions and of course, dancing!


Now for something completely different!

Rock musicians have written incredible music using this time signature. James Marshall Hendrix aka Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) is considered a pioneer of the electric guitar. However, what many don't realize is what an incredible songwriter he was (listen to the album Axis: Bold as Love).

Here is an example of his skillful use of this meter by Jeff Beck and Seal in their cover of the Hendrix tune Manic Depression!


One of my favorite songwriters of all time wrote one of the greatest songs of all time where he recounts his time as a lounge singer in a piano bar. Billy Joel wrote his first major hit single, Piano Man in 1973. An argument can be made that this is 6/8 time, but the sheet music says 3/4.


Other notable songs in this meter:

Sweet Baby James - James Taylor
Iris - Goo Goo Dolls
Sing it Again - Beck
Edelweiss - The Sound of Music
Chim Chim Cheree - Mary Poppins
The Rainbow Connection - Kermit the Frog
Kiss From a Rose - Seal

There are tons more and again, the line between 6/8 and 3/4 is very tight. It can be subjective. It is often a "feel" thing.

I'd love to hear your opinions on this. Also, list other great songs you think are in this meter!

Ok, let's look at some more meters.

Continue to Parts 16 & 17, Music Meter, 6/8 Time, Cut Time

Return to Top of Waltz Time

Return to Musical Notation and Basic Music Theory

Go Back to Songwriting Unlimited Home Page

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