Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Flatpicking in 6:8 time--Help!

I’ve been flatpicking for almost 3 years nearly every day. My techniques is coming along just fine but it has mostly been in 4:4 time. Some in 3:4 time. I am working on a few Irish tunes including Banish Misfortune and I find that I am tripping up (for lack of a better phrase) along the way with respect to where the down beat should fall and how the up-down picking pattern accommodates this time signature. Any suggestions?

You aren’t alone in that issue, I have the same one. 3/4 or 6/8 can cause issues. Especially if you are playing triplets and end up with an odd number of notes in a measure. In that case the time signature could alternately be written as 9/8. I ran into that on Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. The good thing about that particular song is that there are almost no rests or quarter notes. As a result it was odd only if you were watching the music and observing that you were playing an up stroke at the start of every other measure. In cases like that, I just alternate all the way through. When you do add rests or longer notes is when you have to make some decisions. I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule in that case. I would suggest just figuring out what is most natural for you as far as landing you on significant down beats (such as 1) with a down stroke, or perhaps even what makes sense for where you want accents. When mixing triplets and straight eighths, I try to end the triplet phrase back on “normal” up down picking, but that’s just me. At some point, a phrase can get so difficult to make it work out “right” that I just commit the tune to memory and see how I naturally am inclined to play it, then I make note of it and try to repeat it from that point forward.
Best of luck and if you figure out some things that help, please pass them along.

Thank you for the words. I am stumbling my way through the piece and finding what works and what does not. I was wonder whether there was a rule or technique such as up-down picking in 4:4 time with a standard rag; but it sounds like maybe there is not. Thank you again. And yes if I find something that works I will pass it along.


Hey, how are you getting on with your jig time? I’m an Irish flatpicker and play a lot of traditional Irish (‘trad’) music. Jigs really trip a lot of people up who aren’t familiar with the style. I remember picking with an Aussie mate of mine here in Ireland, a ridiculously good flatpicker, and when I started up a jig he stopped me and asked what is the story with these tunes as he couldn’t rap his head around the timing. Now I’m no musical virtuoso but I just told him to count each bar as 123 123 - (the picking should be DOWN up-down DOWN up-down) for each bar. He picked it up straight away. I might be able to upload a recording of a tune if you’re still having trouble, let me know

I was having trouble with another jig called the Irish Washerwoman, and using a DUD right hand picking pattern helped a lot. With DUD, the first beat of each triplet is always on a downstroke, which helps the timing and gives the tune the right flavour, to my ears at least.

Interesting as it is just 3/4 timing doubled up . so that could be an easy way to do,like when we use two beat in 4/4 I recorded Sleep walk once and I basically did 3/4 timing on the back up . to slow the amount of strums down or half time as some call it . In other words cut the strum count in half making it easier on the back up player , I just do something and it fits but it is like a lot of the old rock tunes like Sleep walk would be a 6/8 timing I believe, I would have to think that one through . The question how do you do that sometimes wakes us up to what it is we are doing. two bars in one would be another way to look at it. I have a recording of me doing both parts to sleep walk I might post it if I get enough courage up . it is about 20 years old and played on a 1989 Strat Plus . I still have that one and it looks like new.

By the way I love Irish jigs and try a few .

[attachment=0]21 Track 21.mp3[/attachment]I think I was abut 47 years old when I recorded this one I play it all : it may not be to a real good players idea of good but iot was the best I could do . feek free to critique as I am grown up and learned a long time ago that is a great way to improve .

Love the sleepwalk! That was a great song. I suspect in it’s day it probably was the first slow dance for many a couple who are still together today. On the time signature for it… I am not sure what you correctly call it, but it is basically 4 beats with 3 8th notes triplets (from a 4/4 perspective) for each beat. The high hat carries what I am calling the 8th note triplets in the original. So if I were writing it, I am thinking I would notate it as 12/8 so you wouldn’t have to mark all the 8th notes as triplets (they would be plain 8ths). I’m not saying that’s right, that’s just my take on it. The melody is playing two against the underlying threes quite a bit, so someone might take the opposite approach and orient the time signature to the melody as opposed to the underlying groove. I think they call such a meter “compound” because it has two feels in one (both 3 and 2).

Hmmm… 6/8…

My take is a bit different from what you have heard here. As some folks have pointed out DUDDUD in 6/8 works to keep the feel of the emphasized (pulsed) beats of 1 and 4 when picking. However, DUDDUD can become problematic at faster tempos as you have a wasted motion between the adjacent down strokes. This is what I do (and teach to my students). I practice ALL PICKING as alternate down-up and then I practice it backward as up-down. In other words, on the beat, I practice picking down followed by an up stroke and then I practice it with an up stroke on the beat followed by a down stroke. This way I develop independence with my right hand picking and am also able to (and used to) pulsing upstroke beats when it fits the tune. An example of this would be Donnybrook Fair that my son and I play from time to time (it keeps us very humble) :smiley: . So, if you are playing eighth notes in 6/8. you actually are just alternating **[size=150]D[/size]UD[size=150]U[/size]**DU with the bold strokes slightly pulsed to give it the 6/8 feel. However, if you are playing in 6/8 and there are lots of sixteenth notes, you may consider counting the eighth note as the beat and the sixteenth note as the off beat like this DUDUDUDUDUDU. Either way, you are always alternating down and up strokes.