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Mar 1, 2021 - 11:29:38 AM
3514 posts since 5/6/2004

Am I the only one who much prefers playing most waltzes in 4/4 time? It suits the instrument so much better, to my ear. Does anyone really prefer the 3/4 “Blue Moon of Kentucky” to the 4/4 version?

"Kentucky Waltz" sounds great in 4/4 time. (I don't worry about the name. "Waltzing Matilda" is in 4/4.) So do "Black Velvet Band" and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Even "Amazing Grace" sounds good in 4/4 (although it loses some of its solemnity).

There are a few I still prefer in 3/4 time: "All The Good Times are Past and Gone" and "Steets of Laredo," for example. But they're in the minority.

Am I alone on this?

Mar 1, 2021 - 11:53:01 AM

6935 posts since 8/30/2004

Rich,
Thanks for the heads up but changing from 3/4 to 4/4 or both has been going on for years and years...stay safe...Jack

Edited by - Jack Baker on 03/01/2021 11:53:48

Mar 1, 2021 - 12:07:54 PM
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15134 posts since 12/2/2005

3/4 time is 3/4 time. It is its own thing, and has its own feel. So many great bluegrass songs just wouldn't feel the same without it it - hundreds of gospel tunes and classics like "Rank Stranger." Players should learn how to do both.

Bill Monroe was reportedly a bit miffed when Elvis Presley recorded "Blue Moon of Kentucky" in 4/4 time. And then the royalty payments started to roll in. "Those were powerful checks," he said. "POWERFUL checks." And he started performing his own song first in 3/4 and then switching to 4/4 for the last verse.

So yes, we can convert songs from 3/4 to 4/4. Sometimes it works out great. But we should take care not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. A lot of great music was written in 3/4 time, and I dread the first time I ever have to hear a lovely tune like Ashokan Farewell rendered in 4/4.

Mar 1, 2021 - 12:14:50 PM
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499 posts since 10/4/2018

I think most BG banjo pickers and rock guitarists love to change from 3/4 to 4/4. I don't like it at all. It makes me cringe every time I hear one. It's a poor man's substitute for actually learning to play a waltz convincingly on the 5-string...but I may be wrong.

Edited by - Good Buddy on 03/01/2021 12:15:29

Mar 1, 2021 - 12:21:16 PM
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80 posts since 2/7/2020

About as well as I like banjo players who capo at the 7th fret to play in D. Usually the same people doing both.

Mar 1, 2021 - 12:22:36 PM

3514 posts since 5/6/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Jack Baker

Rich,
Thanks for the heads up but changing from 3/4 to 4/4 or both has been going on for years and years...stay safe...Jack


I wasn't laying claim to anything, Jack, only stating a personal preference and wondering whether it was a preference widely shared.

It could be that it takes more talent than I possess to make a song sound good in 3/4 time. More spaces to fill with creative bits.

Mar 1, 2021 - 12:23:14 PM

RB3

USA

951 posts since 4/12/2004

I have to agree with Skip. I might be wrong, but I always understood that a tune in "waltz time" had a time signature of 3/4 by definition. I certainly prefer Take Me Out To The Ballgame in 3/4 time, but I must say that Doc Watson did a great job doing a version of the song converted to 4/4 time. Also, as I understand it, the title notwithstanding, Waltzing Matilda was based upon a borrowed melody from an old march, so I think it never was a waltz anyway.

Mar 1, 2021 - 12:24:12 PM

3514 posts since 5/6/2004

quote:
Originally posted by earlstanleycrowe

About as well as I like banjo players who capo at the 7th fret to play in D. Usually the same people doing both.


Not in this case. 

Mar 1, 2021 - 12:32:24 PM
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1680 posts since 7/4/2009

A "waltz" played in 4/4 time is no longer a waltz. "Waltzing Matilda" has nothing to do with waltzing, the dance. "Matilda" is a reference to a bedroll or "swag," and "waltzing matilda" is to travel on foot or go hiking, causing the bedroll to "waltz" back and forth.

Monroe would have never re-recorded "Blue Moon of Kentucky" if not for the Elvis version, but when the song picks up in the remake, it's faster and, in my opinion, more exciting than Elvis. It was also the more influential arrangement - practically everyone begins the song in 3/4 before going into fast common time.

There's nothing wrong with waltzes if they're played right. In my experience, most of the people who decry 3/4 are people who can't play well in it. We live in a very homogenized musical world where a relentless straight-ahead 4/4 feeling pervades nearly everything, I can't imagine wanting to make it any worse.

Mar 1, 2021 - 12:53:08 PM
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80 posts since 2/7/2020

Kentucky Waltz is a good one to not play banjo on. Let the music breathe.

Mar 1, 2021 - 12:53:31 PM
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chuckv97

Canada

56578 posts since 10/5/2013

No, no,,, not to my liking at all, wadr. It’s bad enough hornpipes are sped up to reel time and loses the lilt. A waltz has a beautiful swaying groove that should be kept in music. Here’s one that Alan Munde arranged. Try put this in 4/4 time - go ahead, I dare you !! laugh
youtu.be/A6ixMLrbvMw

Edited by - chuckv97 on 03/01/2021 12:54:13

Mar 1, 2021 - 1:01:25 PM

11666 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:

It could be that it takes more talent than I possess to make a song sound good in 3/4 time.


Which is why a musical objective and not ability would be why some players or bands recast waltzes as 4/4, as Elvis did with Blue Moon of Kentucky.

Mar 1, 2021 - 1:30:54 PM
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beegee

USA

22276 posts since 7/6/2005
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I play Foggy Mt. Breakdown in 3/4, call it FM Waltz

Mar 1, 2021 - 1:36:42 PM

3514 posts since 5/6/2004

This can’t both be so common a practice as to be undeserving even of comment, and yet also be so unthinkable a sacrilege as to make the heavens tremble. (Speaking of which, I know of a BG group that used to play a high speed 4/4 version of “Amazing Grace” led by an ordained minister.)

Nor can it be that waltzes should be played as waltzes, period — except there is that 4/4 version over there that is really terrific.

Nor can it both be that any banjoist worthy of the label should be able to make a waltz sound beautiful, and yet there are some waltzes better played with the banjo still in the case.

And if this is only a question of ability, why do I like to listen to 4/4 versions of many of them so much more? I guess there's no accounting for bad taste. 

Mar 1, 2021 - 1:39:49 PM
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4273 posts since 6/15/2005

Not shared by me, Rich. To me, the lilting quality of a waltz in 3/4 time is what makes it a waltz. Converted to 4/4 time, it may be effective, even interesting, but it's no longer a waltz.

One of my favorite tunes to play on the banjo is the Anniversary Waltz, which I first learned on the piano as a kid. More years ago than I care to remember I arranged it for the banjo in the key of C-minor. It's a beautiful, haunting, emotional tune, qualities that would be lost if played in 4/4 time.

Sometime in the late '70s, my band auditioned for a gig at a bar somewhere in Staten Island. We were the only people in the bar except for the bartender and a quiet but clearly intoxicated customer. We did our short audition set, which included a cover of Rank Stranger. As we started off the song with a turn-around in 3/4 time, the customer, beer in hand, began waltzing his way to the stage at the back of the bar, where he continued to dance till we were done. His timing was spot on, and he didn't spill a drop.

Imagine that in 4/4 time!

Mar 1, 2021 - 1:39:49 PM
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Eric A

USA

1116 posts since 10/15/2019
Online Now

Isn't Pike County Breakdown a 4/4'd version of Sweet Betsy From Pike? This has been going on a long time and no reason we can't enjoy both.

Mar 1, 2021 - 1:51:50 PM

80 posts since 2/7/2020

I think 3/4 time adds some variety to a music that can seen monotonous to the casual listener.

You don't have to case the banjo but sometimes it's okay to just play less.

Like how restrained Ron Stewart is on this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7V70jtahBIM

Mar 1, 2021 - 1:53 PM

3514 posts since 5/6/2004

quote:
Originally posted by arnie fleischer

Not shared by me, Rich. To me, the lilting quality of a waltz in 3/4 time is what makes it a waltz. Converted to 4/4 time, it may be effective, even interesting, but it's no longer a waltz.

One of my favorite tunes to play on the banjo is the Anniversary Waltz, which I first learned on the piano as a kid. More years ago than I care to remember I arranged it for the banjo in the key of C-minor. It's a beautiful, haunting, emotional tune, qualities that would be lost if played in 4/4 time.

Sometime in the late '70s, my band auditioned for a gig at a bar somewhere in Staten Island. We were the only people in the bar except for the bartender and a quiet but clearly intoxicated customer. We did our short audition set, which included a cover of Rank Stranger. As we started off the song with a turn-around in 3/4 time, the customer, beer in hand, began waltzing his way to the stage at the back of the bar, where he continued to dance till we were done. His timing was spot on, and he didn't spill a drop.

Imagine that in 4/4 time!


Arnie, was it the "Anniversary Waltz" (sung by Vera Lynn during WWII), or the "Anniversary Song" ("Oh, how we danced on the night we were wed ...")? Something tells me it might have been the latter, also a waltz. 

Mar 1, 2021 - 1:53:32 PM
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134 posts since 9/23/2019

So if they're in 4/4 time, how are they still waltzes? It's okay, I'll wait for a convincing response.

Mar 1, 2021 - 1:57:53 PM
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80 posts since 2/7/2020

quote:
Originally posted by arnie fleischer


Sometime in the late '70s, my band auditioned for a gig at a bar somewhere in Staten Island. We were the only people in the bar except for the bartender and a quiet but clearly intoxicated customer. We did our short audition set, which included a cover of Rank Stranger. As we started off the song with a turn-around in 3/4 time, the customer, beer in hand, began waltzing his way to the stage at the back of the bar, where he continued to dance till we were done. His timing was spot on, and he didn't spill a drop.

Imagine that in 4/4 time!


I played a gig where people started waltzing to White Dove, which was the only 3/4 number we did. I felt a little bad that we didn't have a more romantic waltz for them to dance to.

Mar 1, 2021 - 2:02:18 PM

4273 posts since 6/15/2005

The latter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kb_I_l-HWVA

I play it strictly as an instrumental.

If you recall our conversations at Mike R.'s now defunct annual jam, Rich, you may remember my saying that I love playing slow tunes, especially when backing up vocals.  

Mar 1, 2021 - 2:05:16 PM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

25735 posts since 8/3/2003

I prefer to leave the waltz songs to 3/4 time. I seldom have a problem playing a waltz on a 5-string in bluegrass style.

I have changed from 3/4 to 4/4 if a group/band wanted to do so, but prefer to play it as it was originally written.

Nothing wrong with changing time signatures, it's a personal preference thing.

Mar 1, 2021 - 2:07:38 PM

6041 posts since 10/13/2007

I love 3/4 time and wish I was more comfortable playing it.
ken

Mar 1, 2021 - 2:13:18 PM

79 posts since 5/21/2020

I like playing in 3/4 4/4 & 6/8 timing. If you haven't tried any tunes in 6/8 timing yet check out this website

pickinlessons.com/

Mar 1, 2021 - 2:23:04 PM
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3514 posts since 5/6/2004

quote:
Originally posted by szbassoon

So if they're in 4/4 time, how are they still waltzes? It's okay, I'll wait for a convincing response.


They're not. Would you have preferred "songs originally written as waltzes"? As they were waltzes up until the moment someone started to play them in 4/4 time, I presumed my meaning was clear. I guess I should have anticipated that the semantics police might be on patrol.

Mar 1, 2021 - 2:34:51 PM

3514 posts since 5/6/2004

quote:
Originally posted by earlstanleycrowe

I think 3/4 time adds some variety to a music that can seen monotonous to the casual listener.

You don't have to case the banjo but sometimes it's okay to just play less.

Like how restrained Ron Stewart is on this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7V70jtahBIM


Great recording. "Restrained" may be an understatement. Doesn't this rendition underscore how much "Kentucky Waltz," as a waltz, is so principally a vocal showcase? As I recall, it was Bill Monroe's first composition with lyrics.

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