Although classic 4/4 time signature songs dominate recent music history, there are many different time signatures to explore and master for musicians searching for going out of their comfort zone and being better musicians overall. One is the 3/4 time signature, also called the waltz time.
The waltz-time or the 3/4 time signature has 3 quarter notes or any combination of notes that equals three-quarter notes in every measure instead of the 4 quarter notes of the standard 4/4 time. So the rhythm mainly goes as “1, 2, 3 or bass, top, top.” First, it was mainly used in Waltz music in the Romantic era. But, later in the modern era, it was used in many different genres like jazz, country, pop, even rock, especially during the’50s and’60s.
Today, many songs use this time signature, which is essential for any guitarist to learn. It is a pretty fun-to-play and interesting rhythmic pattern.
Nothing Else Matters – Metallica
One of the most famous songs by the heavy metal band Metallica, Nothing Else Matters, was released in 1992 as the third single from their self-titled fifth studio album Metallica. Written by lead singer James Hetfield the song wasn’t meant to be released, but when the drummer Lars Ulrich heard it, they started considering it for the album.
Nothing Else Matters is played with fingerpicked arpeggios in a 3/4 time signature. Be attentive to chord B7 as it has a challenging position, which increases its difficulty level. All of the chords are arpeggiated in a straightforward 3/4 time signature going downward and coming up.
When The Party’s Over – Billie Eilish
Released in 2018, When The Party’s Over is the famous song of the young American singer Billie Eilish. The song was highly well-received and topped the charts in many countries, while the music video won several awards. It also impacted popular culture as the tune was featured in some TV shows and was covered by some artists.
The song’s 3/4 timing is apparent all over the tune as 4 basic open chords are strummed in the waltz rhythm. It is quite an easy song to learn and play.
If you want to learn more songs but in different time signatures, check out my other post Top 50 Popular & Easy Songs In 4/4 Time – Guitar Tabs Included
Iris – Goo Goo Dolls
Iris is a song by the American band Goo Goo Dolls; it was initially composed for the movie City of Angels of 1998. It is also considered the most known song of the band, and it lasted as number one in the Hot 100 Airplay Billboard songs for 18 weeks.
The chords you’ll need to play this song are Em7, Dsus4, Cadd9, G, and A7sus4. The strumming pattern is traditional in a 3/4 rhythmic pattern, and the slow tempo makes it easier to play.
Lonely Day – System of a Down
The second single of the album Hypnotize by System of a Down was released in 2005. Lonely Day is a powerful ballad with melancholic lyrics and one of the most complex guitar solos ever played by System of a Down. The song was nominated for best hard rock performance in the 49th version of the Grammys.
Lonely Day features 4 open chords and one barred chord, Am, F, C, E7, and G. The strum pattern is quite easy with a downstroke on the 1st beat of 3 beats followed by 3 downstrokes on every beat of 3/4 time pattern.
Idontwannabeyouanymore – Billie Eilish
Another 3/4 time pop hit by the famous American star Billie Eilish is Idontwannabeyouanymore, released in 2017. The tune mixes pop, and R&B elements with jazz and neo-soul-influenced melodies and melancholic lyrics as the artist wrote the song when she was depressed. The song was remixed and covered many times by different artists.
The song features 8 easy open chords that are strummed on the first and third beats of the 3/4 time signature. It is a good song to practice chord shapes and transitions.
If you want to explore other odd time signatures, take a look at my article Top 20 Popular & Easy Songs in 2/4 time – Guitar Tabs Included
Bed of Roses – Bon Jovi
Bed of Roses is a power ballad and the second single of Bon Jovi’s fifth studio album, Keep The Faith of 1992. The single was published by Mercury Records the 11 January of 1993. The power ballad sound was a massive success for the band, who reached a much more mature sound than their Glam songs from the’80s.
To play this song, you’ll need five chords, including the barred Bb and F, which increase the difficulty for absolute beginners. The rest of the chords are easy to open chords, and the strum pattern is pretty traditional in a 3/4 time signature.
Fallin’ – Alicia Keys
A song by the American artist Alicia Keys, Fallin” is the first single off her debut album Songs in A minor from 2001 and considered by many her signature song as it was both written and performed by her. It received numerous certifications worldwide and is definitely one of the best-selling singles of 2001.
You’ll only require two open chords for playing this song, which makes it easy to play: Em and Bm7. You can arpeggiate the chords going downward on the first 1,2,3 rhythm and coming back the same way on the second part.
Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen
First published in Leonard Cohen’s album Various Positions from 1984, this song didn’t have much recognition at first. However, in 1994 Jeff Buckley did a version that became the most famous version of the song and propelled the production of many other versions of it. It’s a very sentimental song with emotional lyrics and melodies.
To play this song, you will need to arpeggiate five easy open chords in a slow tempo. It is an excellent song for absolute beginners as it gives you enough time to change between chords.
If you like folk songs and want to learn more of easy folk tunes to play, this list might just be for you Top 50 Famous & Easy Folk Guitar Songs – Tabs, Chords Included
Piano Man – Billy Joel
Released in 1973, Piano Man by American singer and songwriter Billy Joel is a great song that is also the famous artist’s debut single. The song immediately topped the charts ins the U.S.A. after its release giving the artist immense fame around the country. The song tells the story of a piano player at a bar singing about his life and the people he encounters.
The song features many chords, including an F barre chord which can be challenging for beginners to play, but it’s a slow tempo song in waltz rhythm, which gives you enough time to adjust your fingers.
Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson
Written by Matthew Gerrard, Bridget Benenate, and Avril Lavigne, Breakaway was initially intended for Lavigne’s debut studio album, Let Go of 2002. However, it is the fifth and final single of Kelly Clarkson’s second studio album. Breakaway was first released by Walt Disney as the first single of the Princess Diaries 2 soundtrack in 2004.
A pop song with a high tempo of 160bpm, Breakaway features an easy strumming pattern, four open chords, and one barred chord: Am, G, C, F, and D in a classic waltz rhythm.
Everybody Hurts – R.E.M
An iconic power ballad by American Rock band R.E.M. Everybody Hurts was included in their successful eighth studio album Automatic for The People of 1992. It was released as a single by Warner Music Bros in 1993. Most of the song was written by the ex-drummer Bill Berry, and the arrangement of the chords was made mainly by the bassist of the band John Paul Jones.
The song is played with arpeggios in a 1,2,3 – 1,2,3 rhythmic pattern with the accent on the 1st beats. It is an excellent song for beginner guitarists to step into the arpeggio world.
If you are looking for more songs to use the fingerpicking technique, do not forget to read my list Top 50 Easy, Intermediate, Advanced Fingerpicking Songs – Tabs Included
Open Arms – Journey
Written by Steve Perry and Jonathan Cain, Open Arms is a song by the American band Journey. It talks about the people who, after breaking up or fighting with their partners, are willing to recover their relationship, starting with Open Arms. Journey recorded the ballad for their seventh studio album Escape from 1981.
Open Arms features 9 chords, seven of which are open chords and two barred chords. The ballad’s tempo is really slow, giving you enough time to change the chords comfortably. So do not worry about the number of chords and try to master them.
Judith – A Perfect Circle
Composed by the American alternative rock band, A Perfect Circle was published in the United States as a single of one track. The song was mainly used to promote their first album, Mer de Noms, published three months before.
According to guitarist Billy Howerdel, it was really a unique song because of the way it was made and composed in a single season. This song attracted not only the fans of A Perfect Circle but also the fans of the vocalist of another band, Tool.
For this song, you’ll need to arpeggiate only three chords: E, G, and D.
I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry – Hank Williams
One of the oldest songs on the list is a country classic, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, by Hank Williams, released in 1949. The tune was covered by many different artists, but Hank Williams sang the original version.
In-country 3/4 rhythm is widely used, but the accent is on the 2nd or 3rd beat instead of the 1st one. There are 8 open chords in the chord sheet for this song, but all of them feature easy shapes which you can play with 2 or 3 fingers.
There are many more country songs you can easily learn and play on your guitar, check out this list to learn more of them Top 70 Famous & Easy Country Guitar Songs – Tabs Included
My Favorite Things – Julie Andrews
Published in 1959 and written by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II for the Broadway musical The Sound Of Music, the song became a standard for jazz music. It was played in other versions by artists like John Coltrane, Rod Stewart, Tony Bennet, The Supremes, Kelly Clarkson, etc.
You’ll need the following open chords to play this song: Em, C, Am, D, G, B7, E, and A. The rhythmic pattern is a classic waltz played with the “1,2,3” pattern with the accent on the first beat.
Runaway – The Corrs
Runaway is the first single of the 1995 album Forgiven Not Forgotten by the Irish band The Corrs and one of their most recognized songs. The song, written by Andrea Corr, meant the beginning of a prolific music career for her band, especially in countries like Ireland, Australia, and Spain.
The chords you’ll need to play this song include open chords, making the tune easy to play. The chords are D, Dsus, Dsus2, Em, G, Bm, and A, strummed on a high tempo with a classic down-down-up pattern.
I Got You Babe – Sonny and Cher
I Got You Babe is the song that propelled the fame of the recognized American pop duo Sonny and Cher in 1965. The song stayed for more than six weeks in the Billboard 100 Chart. Composed by Sonny Bono and sung in a duo with his wife, it meant its international release and immediate success in the United States and worldwide.
To play, I Got You Babe; you’ll need the following open chords D, G, A, Em, Bm, C, except for barred Bm, which will require the use of the barring technique, which means a higher degree of difficulty that you can overcome with practice.
If you like the 60’s songs, check out this list to learn more of those songs 11 Rock Songs You Must Learn To Play 1960s
Que Sera Sera – Doris Day
A song from 1956, Que Sera Sera became famous as it formed part of the soundtrack of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Man Who Knew Too Much. It was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. The song got the Oscar price for best original song in 1956. I reached number two in sales for the Billboard 100 Chart.
For this song, you’ll need just an easy playing technique as well as a group of open chords. The rhythmic pattern is a standard waltz with three quarters and the accent on the first beat. Think of it like a bass, top, top pattern.
Happy Birthday – Misc Traditional
Happy Birthday, also known as Happy Birthday to You, is a traditional song sung to celebrate birthdays, as you already know. The melody is said to come from the song Good Morning To All by American sisters Patti and Mildred J. Hill; however, the claim that they composed the tune is disputed.
Playing Happy Birthday is one of the easiest things you can do as a beginner as you’ll only need four open chords to play it: A, E, A7, and D. You can play this one fast or slow however you like.
Mull Of Kintyre – Wings
Written by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine, Mull Of Kintyre is a song by the British-American band The Wings; the song was a massive success in 1977 when it became the most significant hit of the Christmas Season in the United Kingdom. The song was written in tribute to the Kintyre Peninsula in Scotland, where McCartney has owned High Park Farm since 1966.
For this simple song, you’ll only need the open chords A, D, E, G, and C, which makes it suitable for beginners as the strum pattern is also easy with a bass note on the first beat and chords on the second and third beats.
If you want to learn more of some easy and famous pop songs, check out my article Top 50 Famous&Easy Pop Songs For Guitar – Tabs Included
Are You Lonesome Tonight – Elvis Presley
Written by Roy Turk and Lou Handman in 1926, Are You Lonesome Tonight, also called Are You Lonesome To-Night, is a famous song by Elvis Presley. In 1960 after the two years of military service of Elvis, the song was recorded by the king after the doubts of the executives of RCA Victor, who believed this song didn’t match Presley’s new style. Still, after its release, it topped the charts and was even recognized as a double-platinum single.
The song features ten chords with a slow tempo in a 3/4 time signature. But don’t worry, all chords have easy shapes; also, the slow tempo helps you easily transition between them.
The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Bob Dylan
The Times They Are-a-Changin is the folk anthem of Bob Dylan’s, which is the opener song of his concert for change the night after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. It is selected as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine.
The song has a waltz-like rhythm with 7 easy open chords. The strum pattern is created by steady down and upstrokes with differentiating accents.
Army Dreamers – Kate Bush
The third and final single of the album Never For Ever by Kate Bush is Army Dreamers. It is a 1980 song that topped the Top 20 Charts in the UK in the same year. The song is about a mother who grieves the unnecessary death of her adult son who died in battle, the guilt she feels and what she could have done to prevent it, and the negative effects of war.
The waltz rhythm song Army Dreamers features 8 open chords and one barre chord: Am, G, C, Dm, Dm6, F, Em, D, and Asus2.
If you want to learn songs with just 3 chords then check out my other article Top 45 Easy Guitar Songs With G, C, D Chords – Tabs Included
The End – My Chemical Romance
The End is the first track in My Chemical Romance’s first album from 2006, The Black Parade. According to guitarist Ray Toro, the song really sets the tone for the rest of the album, and actually, at first, the song was simply called Intro as it was meant to be a sort of introduction for the rest of the album.
The chords you’ll need are kind of simple as you can play all of them with a maximum of three fingers. The song is played with a simple down-down-up-down-up pattern.
America – Simon & Garfunkel
Performed by American singer duo Simon and Garfunkel, America is included in their fourth studio album from 1968, Bookends. Later issued as the B-side of the single For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her in 1972 to promote the launch of the Simon and Garfunkel greatest hits compilation album, the song was composed by the duo with the collaboration of Roy Halee. The song is about a young couple of lovers hitchhiking through the United States and searching for America.
For this song, you’ll need the chords C, Cmaj7, Am, F, Em, A7, D, and G. Make special attention to the barre chord F, which requires a bit of an advanced technique to be mastered.
Tennessee Waltz – Patti Page
Tennessee Waltz is a popular country music song sung by Patti Page with lyrics by Redd Stewart and music by Pee Wee King. It was first written in 1946 and published in 1948. With the 1950 version by Patty Page, the song became a multimillion-seller hit. Curiously enough, until 1974, it was the best-selling song ever in Japan.
If you want to know which chords you’ll need to play this waltz successfully, we list them here: G, G7, C, D7, and B7.
Another great time signature to learn and master is 6/8, which is very similar to the 3/4, you can check out my list if you want to learn some 6/8 timed tunes Top 45 Popular & Easy Songs in 6/8 time – Guitar Tabs Included
Pearly Dewdrops Drops – Cocteau Twins
Pearly Dewdrops Drops a single by the Scottish Cocteau Twins, released in their 1984 EP The Spangle Maker. The song was their highest-peaking song, reaching position 29 in the UK singles chart and number 1 in the UK Indie Chart.
The chords you’ll need to play this song are D, G, A, Asus4, and C. You should arpeggiate the chords in a 3-note repetitive way starting from the high E string to the G string.
Manic Depression – Jimi Hendrix
Written by Jimi Hendrix and recorded by his band Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1967, Manic Depression is a song about a kind of romantic frustration rather than an actual definition of clinical depression. The song was included in the album Are You Experienced and in the Albums BBC Sessions and Winterland with live versions.
A, G, A7, E, D, C are all the chords you’ll have to master to play Manic Depression by Jimi Hendrix. To play it like the recording, you can tune your guitar half-step down.
A Sunday Smile – Beirut
A Sunday Smile is the third song of Beirut’s second studio album, The Flying Club Cup, released on the 9th of October of 2007. The song was written by Zach Condon, who also plays the trumpet. The melodies of this 3/4 song are beautiful and melancholic at the same time.
To play this touching and delicate song, you’ll need the open chords G, C, barre chord F, and open chord Am.
If you liked playing this song, you might want to take a look at my sad songs list Top 45 Sad Guitar Songs That You Must Learn To Play
Take It To The Limit – The Eagles
From The Eagle’s fourth album, One Of These Nights, and issued as its third single in 1975, Take It To The Limit is a song that reached number 4 on the Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart, and Billboard ranked it as number 25 song of 1976. Meisner’s reluctance to perform this song would directly lead to his departure from the band.
You’ll need to play seven open chords of little difficulty for this song: G, C D, B7, Em, Am, and C/D. Pay special attention to chord B7 as it requires four fingers instead of three, which can make it a little bit trickier to play.
Innocent When You Dream – Tom Waits
First appeared in his ninth studio album Franks Wild Years, Innocent When You Sleep is a song by Tom Waits which was also used as the soundtrack for the closing sequence of Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story in the 1995 film Smoke.
To play Innocent When You Sleepyou’lll needs five open chords and one barre chord, which presents a slightly higher technique. The chords are as follows: C, Am, Barred F, G, A, and Dm.
Blackout – Muse
Released in 2003, Blackout by the English rock band Muse is yet another great song in 3/4 time signature. It is one of the rare songs of the band that features Waltz rhythm with its nice arpeggios. The main melody is played with a mandolin which Mat Bellamy got the idea from during his time in Italy.
It is a relatively easy song with basic arpeggios in the 1,2,3 – 1,2,3 rhythmic pattern. You can also play the easy solo at the End of the tune with the tremolo picking technique.
River Of Tears – Eric Clapton
Part of the 12th album by Eric Clapton, Pilgrim. The song was recorded in the very early sessions of Pilgrim. The song became the standard for the rest of the album as Clapton himself considered it as good as every other song he’s ever done. At first, his purpose with this song was, as he said, manipulative as he expected after a certain woman had listened to it, that it would be a sort of reconciliation between them.
The pattern you’ll have to follow for this song includes the following notes C, barred F, Dm, G, and Am. The song has a great waltz-time rhythm, making it fun to play.
Holiday – Weezer
Holiday by the American alternative rock band Weezer was released in 1994 as a single in The Blue Album. The song was inspired by the novel On The Road by Jack Kerouac and told about any form of escapism. The tune is remembered with its doo-wop acapella, organs, and complex harmonies in 3/4 time signature.
You can play the tune with basic single-note melodies and two-note power chords. It is an easy song to play with many different techniques, making it a great practice for beginners.
My Back Pages – Bob Dylan
My Back Pages is another great folk protest song by Bob Dylan released in 1964. Although the song did not receive much attention, it got very popular later, after the covers of many bands like the Byrds and the Ramones.
Built on a slow tempo, My Back Pages features 5 essential chords; G, C, Am, Em, and F. The strum pattern is all downstrokes in a 1, 2, 3 pattern with the accent on the first one.
Bojangles – Jerry Jeff Walker
Mr. Bojangles is the country tune, released in 1968 by Jerry Jeff Walker in his same-titled album. It tells the story of a street musician called Mr. Bojangles, whom Walker met in a New Orleans prison. Later, the song was covered by many artists and bands, making it a country classic.
You will need 7 chords to play the song, including an F barre chord. The rest of the chords have easy positions making the song easy to play with the standard 3/4 country rhythm pattern.
Amazing Grace – John Newton
Amazing Grace is a Christian hymn written in the 18th century by the English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton. It is one of the most popular hymns globally, used both for religious and non-religious purposes.
With four easy open-chords, A7, D, D7, G, and a basic strum pattern is a 3/4 time signature; it is one of the most straightforward songs on the list. It is suitable for novice guitarists to get used to the 3/4 rhythm pattern and major 7th chords.
The Mountain – Steve Earle
The Mountain is the seventh song of the homonymous and eight studio album The Mountain by Steve Earle, released in 1999. Steve Earle produced this whole bluegrass album as a tribute to the founder of bluegrass music Bill Monroe, who died in 1996.
The Mountain features four open chords and one barre chord with a simple traditional strumming pattern, which implies a higher degree of difficulty while playing. The song features the chords D, barred Bm, Em, G, and A.
Only Love Can Break Your Heart – Neil Young
Released in 1970, Only Love Can Break Your Heart is one of the first and lesser-known tunes of the American singer-songwriter Neil Young. The song is composed in a similar rhythm to waltz and was covered by many different bands, with the most famous one being the one from the British band Saint Etienne.
You will need 3 easy open chords along with a basic strum pattern to play the tune. All chords feature easy shapes that you can play with 3 fingers.
Down in the Valley – Johnny Cash
The American folk song Down In The Valley is one of the most famous folk tunes in the U.S.A. It was recorded by many different artists, including the country legend Johnny Cash.
The ballad has a slow tempo and a 3/4 time signature. It is extremely easy to play a tune with only 3 open-chords, a slow tempo, and a straightforward downstroke strum pattern.
The 3/4 time signature is used in many different genres to create a different feeling than the standard 4/4 time. It is especially nice with arpeggios as the groups of three with a bass note accent, in the beginning, are perfect for the style.
To get a wider perspective on music and progress as a musician, you should learn and master odd-time signatures, and the waltz-time is a perfect start. You can play any of these songs on the list to start and enjoy exploring new types of rhythmic patterns.
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