Rhythm and Strumming 02 – How to count 3/4 and 6/8 time


View all my guitar lessons here. Want private lessons over Skype? Click here to learn more.

3/4 Time

3/4 time is just like 4/4 time, but there are three beats to a measure instead of four. The three means that there are three beats to one measure, and the four means that a quarter note takes up one of those beats. If that’s a bit confusing, all you really need to know is that you count out 3/4 time, just count to three.

One, Two, Three

That’s one measure.

The BPM (beats per minute) of a song tells you how fast you count. If a song is 100 BPM, the speed is such that there would be 100 beats in one minute. And if you’re in 3/4 time, each of those beats would be a quarter note.


To count 3/4 time, just count to three. Each of those counts (1, 2, 3) is a quarter note. Another way to count is with your feet. Just tap your foot so that your toe hits the ground with each count.

The next subdivision is 8th notes – there are 8 of them in each measure. We use the word ‘and’ to count them. So, it would count like this: One and Two and Three and. When you tap your foot, the ‘ands’ are when your toe comes up.

Next are 16th notes – there are 16 of these. We count them like this: One e and a Two e and a Three e and a. (That’s Eeee and Uh sounds).


If you’re just beginning, the first exercise you should practice is to do a down-strum on each beat (or quarter note). So, the strumming pattern would look like this:

1   2   3   ,...
d   d   d   ,...

Try changing chords every measure, or after every four down-strums. If you have to pause to change chords, that’s ok – just keep practicing and eventually your chord changes will happen in time.

The next pattern you might try looks like this:

1   2   3   ,1    2   3   ,...
d     u d u ,d      u d u ,...

6/8 Time

6/8 time has a bit of a swing feel to it. All you need to do is count to 6, but do it in two sets – so 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 – emphasize the one and the four.

Here is a strumming pattern to practice in 6/8:

1   2   3   4   5   6   ,...
d     u d u d     u d u ,...

Some tips

Try to do most of the strumming in your wrist and keep your elbow fairly motionless. This will help you strum faster and more accurately.

Try to keep your hand moving fluidly. I typically keep the motion of my hand steady with up-downs in 16th note motion, and then just strum where you want the pattern to be. This is a bit more advanced, but once you tackle it, your strumming will become much more fluid.