6/8 Grooves

A guide on how to play grooves in the time signature of 6/8.

All grooves in our introductory lessons have been in the time signature of 4/4. We are now going to look at the next most common time signature you will come across, which is 6/8.

We have discussed what time signatures are in our Time Signatures lesson series. You can use the information provided there to get a basic idea of what 6/8 means. The top number tells you how many beats there are in a bar and the bottom number what kind of beat is counted. So in this case we have 6 quaver beats per bar.

Now, in our introductory lesson there is a fairly important bit of information missing. There are actually two different groups of time signatures, Simple and Compound. In a simple time signature all note groupings can be spit into groups of two or four. You have seen this in 4/4 where our crotchet beats were split into either two quavers or four semi quavers. Compound time signatures note groupings can be split into three or six. So if we were to play a groove in 6/8 it would have a completely different feel to it. For example a 'back beat' feel in 4/4 would involve placing snares on beats 2 and 4. To create a similar feel in 6/8 a snare would go on the 4th quaver beat of the bar. This will all become much clearer when we start looking at some groove examples. There is a lesson on this subject which you can find here, a long with a quiz that you can find here.

Let's start off with the basic right hand part. For our 4/4 grooves this would have been eight quavers played, let's say, on the hi hat. These quavers would have been joined in two lots of eight. In 6/8 we are only going to have six quavers and these will be split into two groups of three. It will look like this:

The right hand part for a bar of 6/8

So in the example above, first of all notice at the start of the pattern there is the time signature of 6/8. Also take note of the quaver groupings.

At this point it is worth me pointing out that counting will work slightly differently in 6/8. Rather than using numbers for crotchet beats and '+'s for quaver beats, we are now going to count the quavers with a number and then any semi quaver counts would be counted with an '+'. It's confusing I know, but with practice it becomes second nature. There is actually a logical reason we do this. Counting is derived from the bottom number of the time signature. So in 4/4, the bottom number implies crotchets, so numbered counts refer to crotchets. In 6/8, the bottom number implies quavers so any numbered counts refer to quavers. You can read more about counting in This Introductory Lesson.

Here's that hi hat part again with counting added in:

The right hand part for a bar of 6/8 with counting

Next, let's add in a kick drum. As is common in 4/4, we will put one at the start of the bar. This is shown below. Notice that to write a kick drum as a full bar we have used a dotted minim note (refer to this lesson for a guide on dotted notes). Because the groupings are now in threes you use a lot of dotted notes in 6/8. The start of a 6/8 groove

Finally we'll add in a snare. As we mentioned above, this will go on the fourth quaver beat in. Again, dotted notes are used: A simple 6/8 groove

And that is a simple 6/8 groove. On the next page will be listed several simple variations to get you started on playing grooves in 6/8.

Make sure when practising the pattern above you do it with a metronome. When using a metronome in 6/8 it is usually best to set it to count eighth notes. Some metronomes have a function to do this, if not leave it as crotchets but double the tempo. This will create the same affect as having it set to quavers.

Why not try some More 6/8 Groove Examples