I know the differences in the structure of these 2 time signatures, but what are the differences about the auditory perception, aside from the fact that 3/8 may seem faster?

  • 1
    But 3/8 and 3/4 are both simple times. 6/8 is compound.
    – Peter
    Commented May 16, 2020 at 13:35
  • There is absolutely no difference if you play the first with tempo '1/8 = 120' and the second '1/4 = 120'. Just more ink if you print the piece out.
    – moonwave99
    Commented May 16, 2020 at 13:37
  • Welcome to the site LeoAn! If your question is about 3/4 compared to 6/8, then please check out this post, this post, and this post. If your question is about 3/4 compared to 3/8, then please remove the word "compound," since 3/4 and 3/8 are both simple times.
    – jdjazz
    Commented May 16, 2020 at 16:11
  • Thanks a lot for the replies. Is 3/8 not the compound of 1/4 (ie 3/8 = 1/4 x 3/2) as well as, for example, 6/8 is generated by 2/4 (6/8 = 2/4 x 3/2)?
    – LeoAn
    Commented May 16, 2020 at 17:14

1 Answer 1


Both 3/4 and 3/8 can be Simple Triple (three beats in the bar) or Compound Single (one beat to the bar). Textbooks don't mention Compound Single much, but it happens all the time in real music - a fast 'one in the bar' waltz. A close relation of Compound Duple, a 6/8 (or 6/4) two-in-a-bar.

Historically, using 3/8 rather than 3/4 didn't necessarily imply a faster tempo. In modern writing, it probably does. Waltzes are usually in 3/4, an Irish jig is conventionally in 3/8. But it will be easy for those inclined to do so to find plenty of exceptions!

If you're transcribing a piece, there may be historical clues as to whether to choose 3/4 or 3/8. But there's not going to be a clear-cut 'right' answer.

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