Odd time signatures

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by december, Oct 13, 2021.

Have you recorded any original music in a time signature other than 4/4 or 3/4?

  1. Yes

    37 vote(s)
    61.7%
  2. No

    23 vote(s)
    38.3%
  1. december

    december TDPRI Member

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    It seems that odd time signatures are still a very uncommon practice.
    5/4, 7/8, 9/8, 11/8, 3/3, 6.5/8 (13), 4/5...
    I use these a lot in my music. I'm curious if there's many others that use odd time signatures regularly, or at all.
    I've heard some prog rock bands do them occasionally; I heard a song by Yes in 5/4, but it was very forced. It was a 4/4 beat with +1 just forced in really awkwardly. There's an Alice In Chains song in 7/8 (Them Bones), and a Grateful Dead song in 7/8. I know it happens more in jazz, yet I still don't hear it often. It's very common in Middle Eastern music.
    TOOL is the only band I'm aware of that uses them regularly. Probably 90% of their work is in something other than 4/4. They do it well, too. It never sounds forced, the rhytms flow so well, until I started counting, I hadn't even noticed. Within a year of Lateralus coming out, I realized that most of the songs are in 5/4, one 7/8, one 6.5/8, two in 4/4, and one 3/4. This blasted open a whole new realm of dimension in music for me. Being naturally gifted in math (calculus in high school, 5/5 on AP exam in 30 mins), and particularly fond of geometry, being introduced to odd time signatures was mind blowing. There are shapes and movement to music, and odd time signatures have that extra beat that make it not a square, and it balances out the shape and movement, like a 5/4, to put it reductively, is right, left, right, left, center (but more a 3D pentagram, interacting with all the other shapes of the various polyrhythms). With that odd beat, the movement always resolves in the center. This makes dancing much more interesting, and makes more sense. A lot of 4/4 I can't even dance to, even when the dance floor is full, because it gets so monotonous very quick, just left, right, left, right... Ok, I'm bored! I dance in spirals and complex geometric shapes, not in a box.
    It's Sacred Geometry, and it really brings out the Creative, even magical, power of the Art. I would really love to see music as a whole evolve beyond the confining square of 4/4, it's a literal cage.
    And I would appreciate any help exposing me to any music you may know of that I don't that has odd time signatures.
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  2. Skyhook

    Skyhook Tele-Holic

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    The guitar solo in one of my otherwise 4/4 songs is in 11/16. Sounds insane but I didn't even plan it that way.
    It's the little riff-ditty that's playing under it that came to me and then when I was supposed to make it happen I had a helluva time
    trying to suss out what I had actually made... and it was 11/16. I've counted and recounted the thing... it's 11/16.

    Another one of my tracks has a 19/16 break every once in a while.

    An instrumental I once did shifts gleefully around between 4, 5 6 & 7 /4.
     
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  3. Skyhook

    Skyhook Tele-Holic

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    I'll also recommend a few songs for you also since you asked:

    Sting:
    Love is Stronger than Justice (verses, theme and outro in 7/4 ... chorus is 4/4)

    Nine Inch Nails:
    March of the Pigs (verses in 7/4 and 4/4 although I want to count that turnaround as 8/4 ... chorus and outro in 4/4)

    Dream Theater:
    Dance of Eternity (don't ask ... :confused:)
    6:00 (lots of 7/4, 6/4 and yeah, also 4/4 but check out the epic drum intro in 4/4 but still it doesn't sound like 4/4)

    ... and of course, the Mission Impossible -theme (5/4 galore)
     
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  4. Cesspit

    Cesspit Tele-Holic

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    Freewill by Rush is a great example of changing time signatures. Personally, I love messing with times, also great fun to watch someone try to keep up with changes, especially if they are not musical.
     
  5. Jack Clayton

    Jack Clayton Tele-Holic

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    I write what I would describe as pop music, but I write a lot of it in oddball signatures. I'm currently in the studio knocking out three singles. They are in 5/4, 12/4 and 6/4.

    I think people tend to relegate these sort of signatures to highly inaccessible prog rock stuff like Dream Theater. But Strangers by the Kinks is also in 5/4. Putting it in something other than 4/4 or 3/4 doesn't automatically make it "math rock".
     
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  6. unixfish

    unixfish Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I had to say no, only because I have not recorded (on guitar at least).
     
  7. Splodgeness

    Splodgeness Tele-Meister

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    There are a couple in here that I've recorded.

    There's a 5/4 section at around 26:20 and a whole "song" in 7/4 at around 29:45.

    If you make it that far, the last piece has changing time signatures, starting at about 8 minutes from the end of side 2



    Hope you like them.......... :)

    I guess one of the more well-known pieces in 7/4 is Pink Floyd's "Money"
     
  8. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

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    Dave Brubeck was very successful working in unusual time signatures. “Take Five” is a classic. Highly recommended. Try his Live at Carnegie Hall album.
     
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  9. Greg70

    Greg70 Tele-Holic

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    This hidden gem by Faith No More seems to count out as 4/4 but is so syncopated that it almost sounds 5/4. I remember reading a negative review of this album and the critic said it sounded like his CD player was skipping.

     
  10. Matt Sarad

    Matt Sarad Tele-Afflicted

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    The Dead have tune called The Eleven.
    3-3-3-2
     
  11. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I played in a Celtic band for awhile and learned a whole lot about odd time signatures. The biggest lesson I learned was to stay away from them.:oops:
     
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  12. kctelegas

    kctelegas TDPRI Member

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    Theme from Kojak (middle section is in 5)


    Theme from Mannix (swinging hard in 3)


    Theme from Mission Impossible (5/4)
     
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  13. dkmw

    dkmw Poster Extraordinaire

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    My favorite time signature story, as told by Gregg Allman:

    When he wrote Whipping Post, he brought the song to Duane. Duane said, “‘Lil bro, I didn’t know you knew how to write in 11/4”

    Gregg said he responded with something really intelligent like “Huh??”

    Then Duane said, “Ok dumbass, I’ll draw it out on paper for you”.
     
  14. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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  15. Joshiquad

    Joshiquad Tele-Meister

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  16. Pup Tentacle

    Pup Tentacle Tele-Holic

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    Frank Zappa, Gentle Giant and Genesis have a lot of stuff in odd time sigs
     
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  17. AAT65

    AAT65 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Playing in a band years and years ago we wrote a song which was mostly in 4/4, but when we were trying to work out what happened going in & out of the middle 8 we found it worked best with a bar of 5/4 going in and a bar of 3/4 coming out. We didn't plan that, we didn't "math rock" it, it just sounded best that way.
    You can write things in odd time signatures as a sort of exercise, or challenge (I have a rhythm pattern I keep playing with which is "bar of 5, bar of 6") -- or sometimes it's just what the song needs.
    One of my favourite examples of a piece in a challenging time signature which just feels right is the opening few minutes of Tubular Bells. It's basically alternating 7/4 and 8/4 (there's a video somewhere of Oldfield counting it like that) but to make it more complicated the tune syncopates halfway through each of those bars, so you can also write it as 7/8 - 7/8 - 7/8 - 9/8, and the chords and bass guitar parts that come in after a while are in 3/4 (so that 5 bars of that fits with the two bars of 7/4 - 8/4). But I don't think you experience it like that listening to it, only when you try to play it or count it:eek:.

    BTW one of the interesting things about both Money and Solsbury Hill is that they are not 7/4 right through -- the turnaround at the end of the chorus of Solsbury Hill is 8/4 (or two bars of 4/4 if you're traditional:)) and Money has a funny bar towards the end of the verse (can't remember if it's 4 or 6...) -- not to mention the blues guitar solo which shifts to a straight 4/4.
     
  18. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I thought the 4/4 guitar solo was a cop out. Listen to George burn in 5/4.

     
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  19. december

    december TDPRI Member

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    Thank you all for sharing! I'm enjoying these.
    On another forum someone said something like, "if you have to write music in odd time signatures to keep it interesting, then you can't write creative music in 4/4 either."
    I'm like, it's not something I do consciously: I play an instrument, whether bass, guitar, synth or drums, until I have a riff or beat I like. Then I record it, so I have to count what time signature it's in so I can set the DAW and record it. I'm a solo artist, so I have to record a bassline so that I can start playing a guitar over it, and build a song that way. Once the first track is down I know what time sig it's in, but if it's a 5/4, I wasn't going, "I'm writing this to be a 5/4", I just came to a riff, found out it's 5/4, then I'm building a song in 5/4.
    They just come naturally to me, as 4/4 comes naturally to everyone. I'm not hyper-analyzing and mapping out the song as if it's an equation, they just happen the way they happen. I still have more songs in 4/4 than any other.
     
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  20. jaxjaxon

    jaxjaxon Tele-Meister

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    I once asked a question on different forums about why there is no third note or a 3/3 time signature and every one would tell me it was not needed and I still disagree with them. The closest I could find to a 3/3 was a 3/2 which is 3 1/2 notes and to me that is making the measure more than a whole note which is what a measure is. Any one have an example of a blues played in 3/3.
     
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