It’s happening again. They’re everywhere! Some of the most popular worship songs around the world today are using a particular rhythmic figure. Since it’s so popular, it’s important that each of us are comfortable playing the figure.

The figure that’s being used so often is called a duple, and it’s heard in songs that are in triple meter, 3/8 and 6/8. The most popular song that uses duple figures today is “Reckless Love”. This song has resonated with believers around the world like few songs have recently and rocketed to the top 10 CCLI songs very quickly. The melody of the chorus is almost exclusively duple figures.

Another song that uses lots of duple figures is “Who You Say I Am”. It’s also gaining great popularity in the church around the world. And it’s another reason for each of us to be comfortable playing duples.

Simply put, a duple figure is 2 against 3. Two notes are played (or sung) against three. It’s musical multitasking, and calls for you and I to do several things at once. The basic pulse in 3/8 or 6/8 is groups of 3 eighth notes, like this.

So, duple figures occur when two notes fit in the space of three. Playing these duple figures with their contrasting rhythms might already come naturally for you, but some of you might still struggle with playing them confidently and accurately. Here are some tips to help you become comfortable playing duples.

First, use a metronome for these exercises. There are tons of metronome apps for your smart phone, tablet, or laptop, and many of them free. Get one and get in the habit of practicing with it. Set the metronome to click for each 8th note. I suggest you use “Who You Say I Am” for this exercise. A good metronome setting for the song is 172. It may sound like an awfully fast click, but that click is going to help you feel the groups of three more easily.

Second, get comfortable with counting each of the beats of the measure out loud, or at least thinking of the numbers as you play some steady 8th notes on your instrument. In 6/8, for example, be able to count 1-2-3-4-5-6.

In 3/8, be able to count 1-2-3.

Here’s a melodic figure from “Who You Say I Am” that works well for this exercise. Start your metronome and as you play these notes, say or think “1-2-3-4-5-6” as you play. Play whatever melodic pattern you choose. The important thing here is to play a stream of 8th notes that fill the 6 beats in the measure.

Next step, discovering where duple figures land. This is when counting or thinking the numbers of each 8th note will help you. It helps because you’re now going to play some activity in 6/8 that lands just after 2 and just after 5. For some of you this probably sounds WAY too complicated, but hang in there. With practice this will be effortless for you, not agonizing.

You’re comfortable now with counting or thinking the 8th notes, right? Great. Now I want you to insert a couple more syllables as you count. Instead of just “1-2-3-4-5-6” I want you to say/think “1-2 and 3-4-5 and 6”. You’re adding a quick “and” between 2 and 3 and between 5 and 6. Like this:


Keep the metronome going and get comfortable with this new pattern. You’re going to playing a duple figure now where you’ve added the new “and” after beats two and five. Something like this:


Two notes are being played in the space of three. Once you’re comfortable with that pattern, start alternating between the steady six notes and this duple figure. Like this:

You can apply the essence of these 6/8 exercises to 3/8 meter. You’ll just count “and” after beat two. Like this:

Then, play something like this for your duple figure in 3/8.

Be patient with yourself, keep practicing drills like this, and before long you’ll find that playing duple figures comes naturally for you.

You’ll discover lots of other songs in triple meter that use duple figures. Songs like Come As You Are/Crowder, Jesus We Love You, Great Are You Lord and others.

To help you focus on your playing, I’m creating some click tracks where I count the beats as well as the “and” as described above. Visit kerrtunes.com to find them.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Another way to learn 2 against 3 is to have a 2 note pattern in 6/8 – e.g. CCEEGGEEC all in quavers, but emphasising 1st, 4th, 7th notes etc. whilst playing dotted crotchets in the other hand. Then tie the quavers in pairs….

  2. We’ve just had this discussion as a team! A ‘hemiola’ is the musical term. Fun to say. But yes, it’s in SOOOOO many songs right now. Reckless Love and Who You Say I Am and Let Justice Roll are three in our current song list using it, as well as ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ at Christmas time. Though so far, we always keep the instruments on the 6/8 pattern while the vocals sing the 4 pattern on top of it.

  3. Yes! We’ve been talking about this quite a bit lately. Reckless Love, Who You Say I am and Let Justice Roll are all in our current setlist. “Hemiola” is the musical term. It’s just fun to say. We always keep the instruments on the 6 beat while the singers sing the 4 beats. I’ve not had them try and match it up – I think that’s the beauty of it. But the rhythm in general is very stirring to the soul!

  4. I know that my question has nothing to do with the article but what is the correct arrangement of musicians on a stage. We have two keyboards, 2 quitars, one drummer and three singers. Is there a specific place for everyone to stand. Plse help me with that. Anyone?

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