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Rule Of Three / Music

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The Rule of Three in music.

  • Basic rock/pop song structure generally has three unique parts: The verse, the chorus, and the bridge.
  • Blue Man Group has kept itself to exactly three performers because it's the smallest group possible where you can have someone excluded from a majority somehow, a recurring factor used for a lot of their humor. (The Blue Men really only have individual personalities insofar as each one winds up doing several things — the more oddball the better — that cause the other two to look askance at him.)
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  • Music groups named after three people or things: Earth, Wind & Fire; Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Crosby, Stills and Nash; Peter, Paul and Mary.
  • The band The Early November (other bands have probably done this as well, but this is the only one I'm aware of) came out with a triple CD release, the collective name being The Mother, the Mechanic, and the Path.
  • Once upon a time, 3/4 time in music was considered the "perfect" time signature, and 4/4 was "imperfect." They were thus indicated with a circle (a perfect circle) and an incomplete circle, respectively. The former has passed into obscurity, but the latter has morphed into the lower-case C we know today. Averted nowadays; very few popular songs are ever in 3/4 time, and the "C" is commonly believed to stand for "common time." Except for a song to be considered a true waltz it must be in 3/4 time ("And this song of mine / in 3/4 time" — Christmas Waltz) Thus, Rocket Jump Waltz is not a waltz, but Yoshi's Island Fortress is.
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  • Three chords is the stereotypical minimum for uninspired, bland pop/rock. Or, it could be intentional, "Three Chords and the Truth." Either way, you'll rarely see music with less, but plenty with just three. Subverted by Spike Milligan with "The Ying Tong Song"; Milligan wrote it because a friend bet him that he couldn't get a song with only two chords into the chart.
  • Canadian musician Joel Plaskett has a triple album called, fittingly, Three. It even has a lyric stating "good things come in three." Each disk has 9 tracks, for a total of 27. He also released an EP called "Three More", which contained...3 tracks. AND most of the songs are in 3/4 time and contain lyrics and titles like "Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'", "Shine On, Shine On, Shine ON", etc.
  • "Knock Three Times" by Tony Orlando and Dawn.
  • Not really the Trope Namer, but "Rule Of Three" by the Lemonheads.
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  • Weezer has three self-titled albums, called Blue, Green, and Red by fans.
  • The ending of the 2112 Suite by Rush (even Rush itself is an example (Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart):
    Attention all planets of the Solar Federation.
    Attention all planets of the Solar Federation.
    Attention all planets of the Solar Federation.
    We have assumed control.
    We have assumed control.
    We have assumed control.
  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer had an album called Trilogy, though in a slight subversion it was their fourth album. However, it can be considered to have been their third if one ignores their Pictures at a Exhibition album, as many fans indeed do.
  • In "Coward of the County" performed by Kenny Rogers, Kenny tells the story of Tommy, a man who believes in Turn the Other Cheek. Tommy has a loved one named Becky. One day the Gatlin Boys come a callin' and subsequently take turns at Becky. Kenny makes it a point to tell you there was three of them.
  • The song "Threes" by Mercedes Lackey and Leslie Fish is built on this trope.
  • As is the song "Three" by Massive Attack.
    Three's my lucky number
    And fortune comes in threes
  • "Sometime Around Midnight" by The Airborne Toxic Event ends with a Rule of Five. This functions as a bit of Breaking the Fourth Wall; the listener is expecting this trope to be in effect, and the fourth repetition surprises them, possibly even making them a little uncomfortable. In fact, they might think they misheard, until the fifth repetition underlines it. It might even be somewhat discomfiting. Which makes sense, as the singer is certainly disturbed.
    You just have to see her
    You just have to see her
    You just have to see her
    You just have to see her
    You know that she'll break you in two
  • Party In The USA by Miley Cyrus:
    That's when the taxi man turned on the radio
    And a Jay-Z song was on
    And the Jay-Z song was on
    And the Jay-Z song was on
  • Scherzo Tarantella — It's ALL in triplet patterns.
  • Indian Classical music (both Carnatic and Hindustani) has a huge array of compositions in meters with 3 counts per beat, which are often light and lilting numbers, though some are also heavy numbers. In rhythmic finales, it is customary to repeat the ending sequences three times, with optional variations.
  • Several great concertos have three movements. Johann Sebastian Bach wrote six (2x3) Brandenburg Concerti. They are usually issued (whether as two separate CDs or as a double CD) with nos. 1-3 on one disc and nos. 4-6 on the other. The Third (perhaps due at least partly to the influence of Wendy Carlos' album Switched-On Bach) is often considered to be one of Bach's greatest hits.
  • The tone poem "The Golden Spinning Wheel" by Antonín Dvořák has a slow section that repeats the same music three times with subtle differences in phrasing and harmonic shifts. Naturally, it's based on a fairy tale.
  • De La Soul's album Three Feet High And Rising (in itself an example) has a song called "The Magic Number", which riffs on 3.
  • Third use twist in Roy Zimmerman's satire number "Socialist!", a Take That! to the louder, dumber chunk of the American political right:
    (in a bad vaguely-Southern accent) "You drive here on a public street? Socialist. You go to a public school? Socialist. You ever been in a public library? ...Why?"
  • Animals by Pink Floyd has a song titled "Pigs (Three Different Ones)"
  • "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley from his album Exodus, who were a metaphor for his backing trio the I-Threes.
  • Three images of soldiers are seen on the cover of Paranoid by Black Sabbath.
  • Done subtly in Iron and Wine's "The Trapeze Swinger", where the eponymous trapeze artist is mentioned exactly three times, though in a different context each time. The first time, the narrator recalls the happiest moment of his childhood, when he was dazzled by an acrobat at the circus. The second time, when the narrator goes through a painful breakup with his lover in a carnival parking lot, she refers to their turbulent relationship as a "trapeze act". Then in the last lines, where we learn that the narrator is actually dead, and narrating the song while trying to climb his way up from Purgatory, he vows to paint a mural of his life on the Pearly Gates—depicting himself as a "frightened trapeze swinger".
  • "Number Three" by They Might Be Giants is the third song on their debut, self-titled album (and allegedly the third song they ever learned to play), uses three vocal tracks, and contains all three of the possible three-line rhyme schemes (ABB, AAB, ABA) across its three verses.
  • The refrain of "The Song of the Volga Boatmen" (commonly heard in contemporary culture in scenes involving menial labor) is Ещё разик, ещё да раз! (Yeshcho razik, yeshcho da raz!), which translates as "Once more, once again, still once more!"
  • Many songs, whether old folk songs, modern-day pop, numbers from theatrical musicals, and so on include a sort of "triple refrain" where the last line of a song is repeated three times when it reaches the end. Quite often this incorporates the Three Chords but even where it does not, there is usually an inversion of the typical Rule of Three, where it is the second iteration that has a variation (quite often only one note), and the last is the same as the first to bring that sense of closure so yearned for and reassuring to the ear. The emotional effectiveness of this, as cliche as it has become, can't be denied.
  • "Oh no!" "Oh what?!" "Oh no!" "Oh what?!" "Oh no!" "Oh what?!"
  • Three Hammers by Dragonforce
  • Skynyrd's "Gimme Three Steps"


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