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I write song lyrics for fun and I always add simple music so the song can be performed. About 40% of my songs are in 3/4 (6/8) signature which is kind of unusual in the big picture.

It's just that lyrics coming to me already feel 3/4 and I'm unable to force them to be 4/4. I feel like I'm getting kind of boring with 3/4.

Obviously I can create 4/4 song since more than half of my songs are 4/4 and none of them were/feel forced.

I don't feel like 4/4 songs use different words or stuffing words or weird pauses. Writing in different language makes no difference.

Is there a writing concept/trick for good sounding 4/4 lyrics or for 3/4 to 4/4 conversion or should I ask music theory to fix my feeling?

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  • You should probably listen to more 4/4 music. A few days of that'll train your brain to think in those patterns.
    – Sputnik
    Dec 2 '20 at 16:15
  • That might be actually more correct than I first thought. I obviously hear 4/4 music on the radio all the time, but as I'm not natively english speaking, I don't really catch that much of the lyrics (to be fair sometimes it's impossible to understand the lyrics even in my language). Therefore, I don't really get that much from it, even if I count along. This might be the reason, why I'm not highly proficient in 4/4 lyrics, but a new question arises: Where did I get the 3/4 from?
    – IsawU
    Dec 3 '20 at 8:43
  • Did you listen to a lot of waltz when you were a child? Maybe someone influential around you had 3/4 music playing in the background. I don't know what genre you typically write for - if it's rap, there may be an artist whose lyrics 'sound' like they are 3/4. In reality, almost all popular music is 4/4 as you've pointed out.
    – Sputnik
    Dec 4 '20 at 11:12
  • I can't imagine any waltz in my family, no classical music at all, only lately I have started delving into classical. In my dance classes I think I bonded much better with 3/4 dances though.
    – IsawU
    Dec 4 '20 at 14:31
  • But that doesn't seem to explain it to me. I did listen to a lot of old music - swing, "classical" rock and roll, popular "jazzy" songs and blues, but I can't imagine that being 3/4 either (12/8 blues being kind of an exception) and just like that I was listening quite pasionately to the modern pop music on the radio too. I write poppy songs that probably aren't as poppy as I imagine, I also write bad blues and various genre funny songs.
    – IsawU
    Dec 4 '20 at 14:38
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Personally, I love songs in 3/4, they tend to be more rare in the bigger picture. But yes, there are several ways of translating a 3/4 rhythm to a 4/4 one.

The easiest, but least natural, is just to add a one beat rest at the end of each line. Another method is to sing in triplets over a 4/4 beat, which can be very compelling if done correctly. You can also do a clave beat, which is three unequal beats over a 4/4 base (usually 3/8, 3/8, 2/8). Finally, you can double the length of a beat in each line, either consistently, or randomly.

The thing about sung lyrics is that, unlike metrical poetry, which is very regular, lyrics tend to be rhythmically irregular anyway (otherwise they sound overly "sing-songy") and often have emphases or extensions that would sound unnatural or forced in spoken word. As an example, consider the hook of the song "Stressed Out":

Wish I could turn back ti-me. To the good old da-ays.

"Time" and "days" are both forced into two syllable words here --it's a major part of what makes the song distinctive.

It's a little hard to depict this in text, but consider a famous song in 3, the Beatles "Norwegian Wood"

I
once had a girl
or should I say
she once had me

You could put this in 4 by making "I", "girl" and "say" an extra beat, and singing "once had a", "or should I" and "she once had" with a clave beat.

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  • I also like 3/4 songs. I have managed to create a great sense of urgency in a 3/4 song - that was fun. Thanks for the great tips.
    – IsawU
    Dec 3 '20 at 9:07
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You shouldn't force your music/lyrics to come out one way or another or else they will have a "forced" feeling about them. You are perfectly free to create your own kind of music, in 3/4 or 4/4 or in some sort of mismatched beat. As long as you get the message across that you want to--or the feeling-- your music will have a freeness to it that music made by artists who want their songs in a certain time signature won't have.

Make whatever you want! As long as you are happy with it and you like the music the way it is, you don't need to feel one way or another about the time signature. Just like authors who usually write horror and try to write romance may epically fail or enormously succeed, artists who write in 3/4 may be great at it or not. Try a few things out, tweak the time sig, and maybe you find a new normal.

Hope this helped!

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  • Right, maybe, I'm just afraid to be non-standard. I really don't mind that 50% of my songs are 3/4, I'm probably just scared that the percentage will start changing very soon.
    – IsawU
    Dec 3 '20 at 9:12

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