Understanding Time Signature
Dec 30 2014, 03:38 AM
Learning Apprentice Player
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Hey everyone,

I couldn't figure out if this needed to go in the practice room or with theory so I decided to go ahead and post it here. Currently in my practice regiment I'm trying to write using weirder time signatures (as most of the bands that I'm listening to lately use odd time signatures).

Could anyone help me understand time signatures in 3/4, 5/4, 7/8, 9/8 and so on?

Thanks everyone!

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Dec 30 2014, 01:52 PM
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Sure man but this topic is a bit wide so it would be crutial if You could break it to a parts and try to ask very precise questions about what and how do You (or do not) understand

Basicly time signature tells You about

1. How many
2. What kind of

rhythm values are in the bar

7/8 is even to numer of 7 eight notes (8th notes) in the bar instead of 8 (like with regular 4/4 = 8/8 time signature). You simply count to 7 i the bar is finished

It also refers to how we group notes in the music sheet.

The basic rule is that the rhythm summary of all notes have to be even to seven 8th notes. For exmaple this could be:

7/8 :: 8th 8th 8th 8th 8th 8th 16th 16th |
7/8 :: 4th 8th 4th 8th 16th 16th |

When You count all the rhythm values in the bar, they will always give You same summary value as seven 8th notes.

But when writing the sheet we try to connect the notes the way they look like a 7 groups - it makes things easier when You read/decode what's written in the sheet and make sure You count the rhythm in the particular way.

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Dec 30 2014, 02:10 PM
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Hi Trey - this is a very good topic and question

I'd like to share some basics about them and how I would approach composing/practicing those time signatures.

Let's take an example of 4/4. The first number here (one on top) indicates how many beats (or pulses) are within each bar of music. The second number, one bellow indicates which note duration defines one beat (pulse). So in the above time signature you have 4 x quarter notes in 1 bar of music. We usually count this time signature like this: 1-2-3-4
This means that you can fit notes in any durations in 1 bar of music as long as a sum of those notes doesn't exceed 4x quarter notes. Practical example would be playing 8x 8th notes in one bar of music instead of 4x quarter notes.

If we take the time signature of 3/4 it means there are 3 pulses of quarter note duration in one bar of music. You can't fit in this music measure (bar) 4x quarter notes as only 3 would fit this time. You can count this time signature like this : 1-2-3 ; 1-2-3....

5/4 would mean that you have 5x quarter notes in one bar of music. You can count it like this : 1-2-3-4-5 ; 1-2-3-4-5....

7/8 would mean there are 7x 8th notes in one bar of music. For better understanding you can see this as 3 quarter notes + 1 8th note as you are missing 1 eight note to get 4/4 time signature (or 8/8). You can count it in various ways, for example: 1-2-1-2-1-2-3 ; 1-2-1-2-1-2-3 where each number/count presents 8th note pulse. You can also simplify and just count to 7 like 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 but in 8th notes pulse (so faster than counting quarter notes before if you are playing the same tempo).

9/8 would mean there are 9x 8th notes in one bar of music. Same rules apply as above and count can be like : 1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2-3 ; 1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2-3 ...where each pulse is 8th note. You could also see it as 8th note triplets and count 1-2-3 ; 1-2-3 (3x 3 8th notes).

I have personally found myself always playing 4/4 time signature music with all my bands so I never got a chance to get used to other time signatures or dig deep but lots of progressive bands and especially metal ones tend to get more technical by using odd time signatures. Also it brings certain freshness to their music as 4/4 is so abused

Disclaimer : someone please correct me if I wrote something wrong up there about counting odd time signatures

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Dec 30 2014, 03:48 PM
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I can't think of anymore examples right now, but as I do, I will let you know
Outshined intro by sound garden is 7/8

5/4

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This post has been edited by jstcrsn: Dec 30 2014, 08:48 PM
Dec 30 2014, 08:54 PM
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QUOTE (Bogdan Radovic @ Dec 30 2014, 01:10 PM)
Disclaimer : someone please correct me if I wrote something wrong up there about counting odd time signatures

I would rather confirm than deny. Me as well as many other musicians I know do count those odd rhythms similar way sort of split mode like You explained

7/8 would be in fact
| 1 2 3 4 + 1 2 3 | for me

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Jan 8 2015, 01:26 PM
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QUOTE (Darius Wave @ Dec 30 2014, 08:54 PM)
I would rather confirm than deny. Me as well as many other musicians I know do count those odd rhythms similar way sort of split mode like You explained

7/8 would be in fact
| 1 2 3 4 + 1 2 3 | for me

Thanks for clearing it up
It is really cool that we can count and break down these time signature in different and individual ways as long as the "sum of the counts" is right.

What about the composing side of playing in odd time signatures?
I don't have much experience composing outside of 4/4 but my guess would be that one would be looking for riffs that start/conclude on "1" of every new bar for example? Like drummer doing a fill preceding 1st beat of a new measure? This sounds like something getting used to playing for sure and sounding fresh to listeners as they don't get to hear the regular changes happening every 4 beats as they are used to in majority of music.

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Jan 9 2015, 04:14 AM
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QUOTE (Bogdan Radovic @ Jan 8 2015, 04:26 AM)
What about the composing side of playing in odd time signatures?
I don't have much experience composing outside of 4/4 but my guess would be that one would be looking for riffs that start/conclude on "1" of every new bar for example? Like drummer doing a fill preceding 1st beat of a new measure?

Yes and no. Depends.
Some of the coolest 'odd' time stuff phrases over the bar of over 2 or more measures.
Check out this tune in 10/4 or 20/8, all the different groove changes it goes through like when the violin comes in with a big slow melody at 1:44 and when it goes into a (sort of) rock shuffle at 2:33 and then the solo at 4:00 and then ultimately when all the parts come back together at 5:31 (20/8). It's pretty complex and intense (but IMO incredibly beautiful).

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Jan 9 2015, 11:30 AM
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Money by Pink Floyd is a nice one it's in 7/4 until the guitar solo when it changes to 4/4

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Jan 12 2015, 06:59 PM
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This is still a bit confusing to me, but something that did help me out was this video, try looking up drum lesson videos they tend to help a ton and also can help expand your creativity.

and Cosmin knows a lot about odd times/ time signatures hopefully he'll comment lol , he helped me out too

example 5/8 could be ONE,2,ONE,2,3 the one is the accent it's easier than 12345,12345 lol

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This post has been edited by enlo22: Jan 12 2015, 07:02 PM

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