[Dixielandjazz] Beatles Songs by Jazzers

Ken Mathieson ken at kenmath.free-online.co.uk
Mon Nov 23 13:11:23 PST 2009

Hi Bob et al,

We're getting into the arcane conventions of notation here. The short answer 
to your question is that not only are they both right, they are both 
essentially the same. 12/8 is effectively a hybrid of quadruple (4/4) and 
triple (3/4) time in which a bar of 4/4 will contain 4 groups of 
quarter-note triplets, hence 12 over 8. It is the conventional way of 
writing a piece which
(a) has a basic feel in triple time, but where an offbeat pulse on 2 and 4 
in slow 4/4 is required (as in thousands of rock ballads), or
(b) originally written in slow 4/4 time but the composer/arranger wants a 
fast underlying 3/4 pulse to give it a sense of urgency and/or to introduce 
a feeling of duality of metre.

The superimposition of triple time syncopations over a basic common time 
pulse is fundamental to jazz and much African and African-derived music - 
it's part of the DNA of jazz, Cuban son, Venezuelan joropo, Argentinian 
chamame, and (perhaps less obviously, but still there) Brasilian samba. 3/4 
and 12/8 time signatures are therefore closely related and indeed anything 
written in one could easily be re-written in the other and still be 

The version of "Norwegian Wood" as played by the Kenny Stewart Trio was 
different in that it was a compound metre (3/4+3/4+3/4+2/4), but if we had 
wanted to write it out (and make it difficult for ourselves), we could have 
written those 4 bar clusters as single bars of 11/4 time. We didn't write 
any of it out, since playing it was essentially a "feel" thing and once we 
got our heads round the idea of missing every 12th beat, it fell into place.

A simliar thing happened on the Brubeck Quartet's different versions of Take 
Five: the earliest recordings have piano and bass playing a repetitive 
ostinato to mark the start of each bar, but, in later live concert 
recordings, as they got more used to the "feel" of 5/4 time, the 
accompaniment loosened up and became more like comping and less obviously 
about marking bar lines.

I  hope this helps. Personally I'm now more confused than I was at the 


Ken Mathieson,

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Robert Smith" <robert.smith at tele2.no>
To: "Ken Mathieson" <ken at kenmath.free-online.co.uk>
Cc: "Dixieland Jazz Mailing List" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Sunday, November 22, 2009 12:54 PM
Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Beatles Songs by Jazzers

> Dear Ken,
> I was interested to read that you play "Norwegian Wood" in 
> 3/4+3/4+3/4+2/4.
> I have a solo practice book of Beatles melodies, and here the tune is
> written in 12/8 time like the blues (equivalent to 4/4 time). I can't see
> how your version and mine can be equated (3/4 time contra 12/8 time), so
> which version is the correct one? Or are both right?
> Kind Regards
> Bob Smith


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