Playing in 3/4 Time


Every song you have learned up until now has been in 4/4 time. While the great majority of folk songs are in 4/4 time, probably about 10-15% are in 3/4 time (sometimes called waltz time).

Playing in 3/4 time is no more difficult than 4/4 time, but you need to change your way of thinking a little. Instead of counting each measure as 1 - 2 - 3 - 4, each measure in 3/4 time will be counted as 1 - 2 - 3.

Since there are only 3 beats in 3/4 time the pattern for bass notes and strums must be modified, because now there is not enough time for two bass notes and two strums.


The following example shows an alternating bass pattern with strumming. Notice that generally only one bass note is played in each measure of 3/4 time. In the first measure you play the root bass note on the count of 1, then in the second measure you play the alternating bass note at the count of 1.


The next example shows a fingerpicking pattern that can be used in 3/4 time. I use this in the pattern picking arrangement of “Beautiful Dreamer” as well as in my recording of “Beautiful Dreamer” on MP3.com. Notice that I use my thumb not only on the single bass note in each measure, but also on one of the notes within the pattern (on the 3rd string each time). This could be varied so that the thumb plays only the bass note and the second thumb stroke is played by the index finger instead (and this would probably be easier in the beginning), but ultimately it is better to play it the way it is written below to keep your thumb and fingers moving smoothly together.