Some of our Favorite Songs in 6/8 Time
Before getting to the list of memorable and influential songs written in 6/8, let’s go over a few basics of this time signature.
What is 6/8 time?
Simply put, 6/8 time is a meter that divides a beat into groups of three eighth notes instead of two. But, more importantly, it is an incredibly versatile and musical time, one that has driven some of the best known songs in pop, rock, and folk music (among others). Yes, it can be found in countless other musical styles, but, for the purposes of this post, we’ll stick to those just mentioned.
Practical musical tempos of 6/8 time can range from slow or fast. The tempo will influence the feel of this time signature greatly as well as influence how you should count it. While the 6/8 signature indicates there are six beats in every bar and that every beat is an eighth-note, you can count (and feel) 6/8 time two different ways depending on tempo.
If the tempo is slow, you would find it easiest to to give each eighth note one beat and count it as such. At slow tempos, you can feel (and will likely tap with hands or feet) every single eighth note in the musical phrase. At faster tempos, you’ll find it difficult to count all of the eigth notes. In that case, you’ll want to count the first and forth beats (essentially counting in “twos”).
What’s the difference between 6/8 and 3/4?
One question that is often raised when talking about the 6/8 time signature is how/if it is different from 3/4. Some assume that the mathematics simply make them equal (as in, “If you have two bars of 3/4, wouldn’t that then be equal to 6/8?”). But, that isn’t how it works musically. However, the two time signatures are distinctly different.
What distinguishes 6/8 from 3/4 is emphasis of the beat. What we accent in 6/8 is distinctly different from what is accented in 3/4. The rhythmic emphasis of these two time signatures are different.
In 6/8, the accent is on the first and fourth beats: 1-2-3-4-5-6.
In 3/4, the accent is on each quarter note: 1-2-3 1-2-3.
Since 3/4 is a simple meter and 6/8 is a compound one, they are subdivided differently. The beat in a simple meters is subdivided into two parts. The beat in a compound meter, however, is subdivided into three parts. So, 3/4 time has 3 beats and 6/8 time has 2.
But, enough of the technical talk, let’s get to what was the purpose of this post: to hear some great music written in 6/8! Here are some our favorite rock and pop songs that illustrate the musical versatility of this often-overlooked meter:
Queen – “We Are The Champions”
Journey – “Lights”
The Beatles – “Oh Darlin'”
Beatles – “Norwegian Wood”
The Beatles – “You’ve Got To Hide Will Love Away”
Blondie – “Call Me”
Tears For Fears – “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”
Metallica – “Nothing Else Matters”
If you’re inspired to write new music in 6/8, then look no further. Here are two drum loop packs dedicated exclusively to this wonderfully musical and versatile time signature: