I'm taking a composition class and I have to write some pieces in 3/4 time. I'm struggling to write stuff that doesn't sound blatantly like a waltz. So I'm looking for examples of well-known music I can study.
When I did a Google search I found lots of examples that triggered debates between different people about whether the piece in question was really in 3/4 time or 6/8 time. So my criteria are...

  1. Reasonably well-known
  2. Any era or period (pop/rock, American songbook, jazz, folk, classical, etc)
  3. Definitely 3/4 either because it's overwhelmingly obvious or we know the composer notated it that way
  • The vast majority of music in 3/4 is not a waltz. When you're composing just avoid anything that has (or implies) the typical waltz accompaniment.
    – PiedPiper
    Aug 16, 2021 at 22:11
  • There seems to be some disagreement about the time signauture, but I think listening to the Beatles "Norwegian Wood" could be helpful. Whether it's in 3/4, 6/8 or (my favorite argument) "slow" 12/8 :) I think it gives a sense of how a song can use a 3/4 pace without sounding too much like a waltz.
    – cnamejj
    Aug 17, 2021 at 7:00
  • I found this too, which might be fun to sample... betamonkey.com/popular-examples-of-music-written-in-3-4 The Hal David, Burt Bacharach song "What the World Needs Now" is one I hadn't thought of...
    – cnamejj
    Aug 17, 2021 at 7:04
  • Do minuets count? Sarabandes are in 3/4 but too slow to be mistaken for a waltz. The same is true of the loure, an example of which is found in Bach's French Suite no. 5.
    – phoog
    Aug 17, 2021 at 15:48

3 Answers 3


Chopin's Mazurkas.

Schubert's Landlers and German Dances.

Middle movements of piano sonatas from Haydn or Mozart.

Also, just peruse a traditional songbook or hymnal, there will be 3/4 songs like Happy Birthday, The Star Spangled Banner, or God Save the King.

...debates between different people about whether the piece in question was really in 3/4 time or 6/8 time

That would be a debate between people who don't know the difference between simple meter 3/4 and compound meter 6/8, 3/4 has three strong pulses, three beats, but 6/8 has two. Those two meters are distinctively different.

However, the difference between 3/4, 3/2 and 3/8 is more subtle. All have 3 beats, but historically each meter was used for a different characteristic feel. The essential idea is during the Baroque period meters with smaller bottom numbers were played in slower tempos. You can group them together as simple, triple meters.

If triple meter is what you want, and not specifically just 3/4, you could also look at the dance called the sarabande which is in 3/2 or the courtante which is sometimes in 3/2, sometimes in 3/4. Both dances were common movements in the Baroque dance suite.

...I'm struggling to write stuff that doesn't sound blatantly like a waltz.

This may also have to do with "waltz style" accompaniment which is the "bass, chord, chord" pattern. You can try to escape that two ways:

  • write a melodic bass, minuet and courtante dances will provide examples
  • try a non-waltz tempo

Some Romantic era dances like the mazurka or lander may sound waltz-like, because they often use the bass, chord, chord pattern. If you want to avoid that, definitely look to Baroque dance examples.

  • The reason why I want to avoid debates about 3/4 -vs- 6/8 time is because I intend to buy the (original, correct, from the music publisher, etc) sheet music to study it in depth. So I want to make sure before I spend the money I'm really getting something the composer intended to be in 3/4, and not just something that sounds like it to someone's ear. ...PS... I was surprised this got migrated to "fans" because it's about composition, not "listening or "appreciating".
    – user316117
    Aug 16, 2021 at 16:06
  • Only something badly written in 6/8 may be considered to be waltz time, which virtually always is written properly in 3/4.
    – Tim
    Aug 16, 2021 at 16:25
  • @user316117, I agree, the composition part of your question should have kept it on the music practice and theory exchange. Aug 16, 2021 at 16:56
  • @user316117: What you want to do with that information does not influence what is needed to answer the question; I see no composing aspect involved in creating a list of non-waltz 3/4 pieces.
    – guidot
    Aug 17, 2021 at 9:16
  • I don't think landler is a good example, since it's an Austrian folk dance in triple time, a precursor of the waltz You would be hard-pressed to distinguish some landler from waltzes just by listening. Technically yes, you can say if ländler is in the title it isn't a waltz, but it may feel like one.
    – DjinTonic
    Aug 17, 2021 at 12:51

A curious case is the Finale in Schumann's Carnaval, Op.9 -- Marche des "Davidsbündler" Contre les Philistins. Schumann is having fun writing a "march" in 3/4 !

LEFT right LEFT | right LEFT right | LEFT right LEFT | right ...



  • Try Minuets by Bach and Mozart, who wrote particularly well-known ones.
  • Many of Beethoven's Bagatelles are in 3/4, and "Fur Elise" is in 3/8, which for your purposes may also be useful.
  • Chopin's Mazurkas, Scherzos, and Polonaises are in 3/4.
  • Schubert's Impromptus Op. 90 Nos. 2 & 4; Op. 142 No. 2 & 4 (#4 is 3/8)


  • check out "Bluesette" by Toots Thielemans
  • "Lover" by Rogers and Hart
  • "Up Jumped Spring" by Freddie Hubbard
  • "Blues to Elvin" by John Coltrane
  • "Afro Blue" by Mongo Santamaría.


  • 1
    For a classical piece that's not like any dance form, how about Bach's Prelude VI in D minor, BWV875? (In fact, there are many more in 3/4 in Book II of the Forty-Eight, amongst a wide range of other key signatures.)
    – gidds
    Mar 12, 2022 at 21:37

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