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What is a Waltz?

The Waltz beat gets its name from a dance, based on three steps and a three-count measure. According to Webster's dictionary, the term originated from Old High German walzan, meaning to turn or roll. It first appeared in 1781. The dictionaries and encyclopedias all seem to insinuate 3/4 time only. We will begin with the slower forms of the rhythm and move into the quicker tempos one-at-a-time.

Notice the resemblance of these 3/4 beat-structures to the five basic beat structures we studied in the previous 4/4 lesson. It is your first clue to the BIG Picture of ALL rhythm that will gradually reveal itself as we go.

HINT: This structuring of 5 primary (or 5 basic beat) forms will reverberate throughout the entire time signature system. Within each primary structure will exist a specific number of potential permutations (variations). This allows us to easily imagine, visualize, see and understand virtually everything, (all potential beat permutations and variations) instinctively, as we slowly pursue (and sometimes challenge) the complete time-signature system as it currently exists.

DISCLAIMER: When it seems that unnecessary symbols (rests) may confuse beginning students, I will avoid using them. They serve no useful purpose in this particular context. I feel it is the teachers job to simplify where ever possible. Excuse me for doing that if you find it offensive. Most students appreciate it. Accept it and stay with me. I don't plan to change, but I do hope to lead you towards some deeper rhythmic complexities of which you may be currently unaware.

16th note 3/4 Waltz:

This rhythm hasn't really had its day in the sun. You will not hear many songs that use it. I say it is waiting for the right song or songs (new era?). After studying Permutation theory ( 'Finite to Infinity') you will be able to visualize at least 16,777,216 variation possibilities existent within this solitary form of Waltz. How many songs are you familiar with that use it? Go get 'em, songwriters!

By the way; this is actually the first stepping-stone that will lead to all the 18 quintillion beat patterns that will easily become exposed in Finite to Infinity.

Hear the Basic 16th WALTZ Beat


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8th triplet 3/4 Waltz or 9/8 Waltz:

This has become a very popular form of Waltz. You will hear this pattern used often in Top 40, Gospel, Contemporary and Country & Western music styles. When played at a comfortable tempo, it can take some drudgery away from playing the really boring songs. This beat contains 262,144 variations, not including syncopations.

We need not write it exclusively in 3/4 time. I am showing two examples below, to help illustrate that point along with the deeper point that; 9/8 is actually a totally unnecessarily trite and confusing (invented) redundancy. That unnecessary redundancy also creates a need for even more confusing inventions called dotted-notes and dotted-rests. Those final two inventions alone are quite enough to glaze the brightest music-student's eyes with a complete lack of interest. Dotted figures can and should be completely eliminated! It will be proven to all but the most fervent die-hard traditionalists, later.

DON'T WORRY! We won't be dealing with dotted-notes or rests at all, except to condemn them forever to the trash heap to which (in my opinion) they honestly belong. You'll eventually visualize every existing rhythm and beat structure without using them, ever.

We can imagine, write, think and play each, any and all of the existent 18 quintillion song-beat patterns within the musical universe without ever mentioning dotted-notes or any of the exponentially confusing, unnecessary, useless, redundant time-signatures that theoretically exist. It is totally possible to understand EVERYTHING within one brilliant flash or epiphany. We'll deal with it later in 'Finite to Infinity' as you'll discover later. I'm gradually preparing you for that epiphany here and now within this lesson. Like I said; it's the first stepping-stone to much greater awareness.

8th triplet 3/4 Waltz:

Hear the Basic 8TH TRIPLET WALTZ Beat

VIDEO: Click here to 'Play', see and hear the (above and below) Blues Waltz, video.


The 9/8 version possesses the EXACT same number of permutations. All are played EXACTLY the same as the Triplet 3/4 version. It is EXACTLY the same beat pattern and we could write it numerous other ways as well.

The notes on the top line are no longer called 8th triplets. Now they are officially known as 8th notes. The notes on the bass and snare lines are NOT quarter-notes. Notice the dot beside each. Now, they are dotted-quarter notes with a (CONFUSING) value of three eight-notes each. I've ignored a few dotted-rests intentionally, since they serve no useful purpose in this particular context. (Yes, I know the time-sigs should tally. Imagine the rests if you must have them. They are obvious and may be assumed. It's your choice.

The notation is entirely different. 9/8 is a lot more difficult to count, read and comprehend, but the actual varied rhythms are EXACTLY the same as 8th-triplet 3/4. THIS is just one of the major (ridiculous redundancy) issues that have existed within our current time-signature system for over 500 years. It's one of the major reasons that only one or two people in 7 billion truly understand musical-time. Redundancies abound! If we eliminate the hideous redundancies completely, it simplifies musical-time by a factor of at least 1000 and we'll completely understand each and every rhythmic permutation that could possibly exist, without any confusion. When musical-time is FINALLY understood by everyone, we can expect our music to rapidly evolve in many beautifully NEW directions at once.

I'm (boldly) contending that even our brightest music-educators do not fully comprehend this issue completely. If they did, it would have (and should have) been changed, about the time Gutenberg invented the printing press, or at least as ballpoint-pens were invented in the 1940's.

The redundancy MADNESS was created at a time when pen-strokes were a huge concern. Time and invention itself, (ie; printing presses, ball-point pens, computers and digital technology) have changed the game for all the future. This is a totally different era! Those many, many redundancies no longer serve any useful purpose at all, except for the occasional ego-maniacal composer (or teacher) who will write music to intentionally confuse their readers and students.

I'll point-out later that the only reason to write music in 'say', 16/32 time would be to make the writer appear as intellectually elite.

(EXAMPLE and Point in case: 16/32 is nothing more or less than 2/4, written with more complex and confusing notation. Both contain exactly the same rhythmic variations and permutations. The only difference is the complexity (16/32), versus the simplicity (2/4), of the notation). Why is it so important to confuse our poor reader, dear teacher? (That's my question to the 'traditional' academic World.)

We'll take up this point in greater detail as we study 'Finite to Infinity'. The information you'll discover there 'could' put YOU (or nearly any 'thinking' musician) on the fast-track, cutting-edge of some exciting potential major changes that this debate will (sooner or later) bring to our ears in the form of new, different and more innovative modern music. You may become the one who institutes those changes and it could become very profitable to do so.

I'm making this blanket statement in hopes of turning a few mental-cogs amongst the masses. We'll discuss it more deeply in 'Finite to Infinity'. It's barely the tip of the horrendous Iceberg contained within the current time signature system as it has been taught since the late 1500s. It's a repeated madness (insanity) that has actually stunted the evolution of music, 500 years too long! You may become one who will hopefully help change that, as you too understand the implications of what it means for the future advancement of all music.

This is my favorite rant! Once I get started on it, I can't seem to stop! Sorry! Let's move on . . .) spacerx img

8th note 3/4 Waltz:

This modification of 3/4 time may not seem especially exciting at first. With a little practice you will discover that it is a very close cousin to the ever popular 8th 4/4 'rock' beat that has dominated the music scene for so many years. You will also quickly discover that it has inherited much of the same 'funk' potential as cousin 'Rocko'(aka; 8th-not 4/4). After you gain a feel for 8th 3/4 you will find yourself jamming with variations, syncopations and fills on a new level. From that point, all you will need is a band that is innovative enough to create lyrics and music to fit the beat. We may squeeze up to 16,777,216 syncopated variations from this pattern. It is double-barrel loaded and ready for some rocking new music styles,(eras?)

Hear the Basic 8th WALTZ Beat. It appears simple here but it is absolutely jam-packed with smoking potential.


If you want something a little tougher, try the syncopated variation below. It's just one of 16+ million. So, experiment with a few similar examples of your own. Add all the fills you know but stay in 3/4 time. It's actually pretty easy once we feel the flow.

Hear this 'Funkier' Syncopated WALTZ Beat VIDEO: Click here to 'Play', see, and hear the above Syncopated Waltz, video.


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Shuffle 3/4 Waltz:

There are 8th rests in this one that we can't live without. Count:"1 an a 2 an a 3 an a". Do not strike the cymbal as you say "an". Like Swing/Shuffle 4/4, it may take a while to get this one perfect. Don't worry about it if you are having trouble. Sometimes it will require just the right song before it will feel natural. Polish will come with time and experience, so be patient. Shuffle Waltzes are currently more prevalent in Country & Western music styles and may cause the average drummer to doze-off in mid-song. We may write this pattern several ways, including 8th triplet 3/4, 9/8, 9/1, 9/2, 9/4, 9/8, 9/16, etc., etc. All are replications of 8th triplet 3/4, but with trickier notation. Theoretically they ALL exist with the exact same number of beat-variation and rhythmic possibilities as the two above. However; faster tempos will limit human-ability in the execution of many of those (potential) variations.

Yes, this too may be written hundreds of more complicated ways, though the permutated rhythms and beat variations would all be exactly the same. Keep asking yourself WHY it might be necessary to write each of our 18 quintillion beat patterns 100 different (more confusing) ways, each? If you can discover any legitimate reason, I'd love to hear it. I've been looking for just one, since the mid 1980's and to date I haven't found a singular plausible reason except for the occasional opportunity for a (lazy) writer to save a few (now very easy) pen-strokes.

Hear the Basic SHUFFLE WALTZ Beat

Video: Watch, listen and learn.

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Quarter note 3/4 Waltz:

Quarter note Waltz is most often used with very fast waltz tunes. It is easy to play but a bit of a bore!

Hear the Basic 4th WALTZ Beat


Here is an additional lesson on the Waltz Beat. It goes into more detail about the many (5 quintillion) ways the 3/4 Waltz may be varied.

There is still much more . . .

Yes, I am afraid there is a whole lot more but then it may be two or three centuries before any of it will be of any practical use. For example, if you are up on your note values. Some modifications I have excluded are:
  1. 16th triplet 3/4 contains a whopping 6.87 billion permutations.
  2. 32nd 3/4 contains 2.81474977e+14 variations. This pattern contains some interesting 'Disco' possibilities too. By 'Disco' I am referring to playing a two handed roll on the hi-hat while slipping to the snare on the counts of 2 and 3.
  3. 64th 3/4. . . . forget it! It does exist! Who would dare say that it couldn't be used as a really slow rock (or jazz) ballad concept that might go Platinum? The variation possibilities sent my calculator into an error.

Are you ready for a change of pace?

RUDIMENTS, ROLLS and FILLS (Part 1): Boring rolls are not so boring when used as thundering fill patterns in mid-song. (Simplified for beginners!)

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