Improvising in 3/4

Playing in 3/4 time can be a bit tricky to get used to when there are also lots of chord changes involved. In this lesson I want to introduce a way to get started and also a way to expand your rhythmic vocabulary in 3/4.

Building a 3/4 vocabulary

For rhythm we often rely on what what we have automated already and just can feel so often it is difficult to start lose that foundation. The best way to deal with this is to build up a foundation of rhythms that we can fall back on and use as a starting point to create more.

The concept I am working with here actually works in all meters so you could also use it to learn other odd meters like 5/4 or 7/4 and also to develop your vocabulary in 4/4.

For this lesson I’ll use the chords of the first 8 bars of the jazz waltz Someday My Prince Will Come. I could have used the whole song, but that would have made the examples a bit long, and the emphasis here is on the method rather than the examples.

Just so you have an idea about how the song sounds here are the chords of the first 8 bars:

Improvising in 3-4 ex 1

The Method

In order to develop a vocabulary and get a good feel for the meter we are going to start improvising with a fixed rhythm so that we really get that pattern imprinted in our mind. In a way we are consciously learning the meter in the same way that we probably learned 4/4 without thinking about it.

I’d suggest you start out slowly with these 3 rhythms, but you can of course also make your own.

Improvising in 3-4 ex 2

I have chosen to always have a long note on the 1 of each bar so that it is easier to have the energy to remind one self that this is the one while improvising.

It is very practical to keep you lines fairly clear and simple since you then can use your own improvisations to strengthen your feel of the meter. For that reason you could try to only use arpeggios for a part of the time you spend practicing this. Here are the arpeggios for the progression in one position:

Improvising in 3-4 ex 3

Putting it all together

The first example is a transcription of how I might use the 1st rhythm and arpeggios to make a solo on the song. As you can hear in the video it is actually quite easy to make a quite strong solo with this material.

Improvising in 3-4 ex 4

When you start with this you might want to chose a slower tempo than what I play in the video.

The last example is using the 2nd rhythm, and while I am still trying to play the changes very clearly I am using not only the arpeggio but trying to use the scale that fits the chord as well.

Improvising in 3-4 ex 5

Hopefully you can us this approach to expand on you meters and get some new rhythms into your system.

As always you can download a PDF of the examples here for later study:

Improvising in 3-4

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