5/4, an odd time signature?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Matt Till, Sep 22, 2003.

  1. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    For some reason, a lot of the riffs I've been coming up with are in 5/4. I don't know what it is. In fact, with me 4/4 seems more like an odd time signature as of late. :meh: Can anyone explain this phenomenon. I don't listen to a lot of odd time signature music, I want to start getting into prog metal, but don't have the funds to go buy some CDs.

    So, now back to the thread at hand, what are some good 5/4 tunes for inspiration for my writing? ;)
  2. Plucky


    Jun 18, 2002
    "the grudge" by tool has to be one of the coolest riffs ever (for bass that is), and i think its in 5/4. also inspiring is danny carey's drumming, complicated but at the same time a challenge to beat.
  3. YYZ by Rush is in 5/4 if you want to give that a go.
  4. The begining of YYZ is in 5/4.
  5. Thrice has a few songs in 5/4. Sometimes they'll go from 3/4 to 5/4 time. Weird
  6. Lackey


    May 10, 2002
    Los Angeles
    King Crimson's latest The Power To Believe has good use of odd time sigs. Some are very elementary, quarter notes up a scale, and others are somewhat more complex.

    Also, Mahavishnu Orchestra had some very happening odd times back in the day...
  7. Man, I so want to come up with something in odd times, but everytime i come up with something that SOUNDS like it's in 5/4, it's usually in 4/4.
  8. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    Which is exactly why non-muso's will never get it. I like to throw in the odd bar of odd-time, but a whole song like that to 95% of the population just sounds "funny".

    I have a friend who's been writing songs in 7/4 for years. He gets a real kick out of it. It sounds drunk and disjointed to me, but he's become so used to it it feels straighter than 4/4. There's nothing to say the general public won't eventually get used to it too, but i can't see it happening soon.


    Jun 1, 2003
    Orlando, FL
    the mission impossible theme is in 5/4 :)

    also, you mention you want to get into prog metal, check out Dream Theater's song "Fatal Tragedy" its a rockin 5/4 (mostly) song that i assure wont disappoint :)
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

  11. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Can't that be counted as just two bars of 4/4?

    Actually, I have this Latin/Funk groove...for me to play it with any conviction, it's a whole lot easier to think one bar of 5/8 + one bar of 3/8 vs. the one bar of 4/4.
    Sounds nice when the drummer does his thing in 4.

    Zeppelin's "Four Sticks" is in 5(maybe "The Crunge", too). "The Ocean" is 4/4 with 7/8(they drop off the last 1/8th note of the 2nd bar of 4/4...gives the 2-bar phrase a sense of 'anticipation').

    For me, I like ODD stuff that doesn't sound like it was written 'just to be odd'(i.e like dropping off the last 1/4 note to make something into "7" or adding an extra beat to create something in "5").
    Some of Sting's stuff with Vinnie is nice 'cause it grooves in an odd-time(check out Ten Summoner's Tales).

    ...and I agree with Bruce-
    Dave Holland's odd stuff is brilliantly composed & played!
  12. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Because we Westeners are bombarded with 4/4 so much. You are what you eat!
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I do agree - but am not sure about your definition of "Westerners"?

    So - I like visiting Greece - and it is very interesting (and fun) listening to the music that goes with "traditional Greek dancing" .

    So - every tune has a distinctive rhythm - nothing is in basic 4/4 - not all "odd" but a lot are and each dance step seems to have a time signature which goes with it.

    So - it obviously sounds very natural to the Greeks and when they show people how to do the dance step, it all makes perfect sense - it doesn't sound odd in this context, even when it is! ;)

    {PS I am not talking about the commercial Zorba stuff - but rather, authentic, historically-verified Greek dance - often taken up by students of Greek culture)


    Jun 1, 2003
    Orlando, FL
    well yes it could but it would throw the phasing all out of whack...

    just like in marching band we have a measure of 4/4 followed by a 2/4 and back to 4/4, and while we could just count it in 6/4 (or 3/4) the 4/4 to 2/4 is just the easiest/best way to do it.

  15. i think a lot of it depends on the phrasing. we do stuff in 4/4 that sounds odder than our stuff in 7/4, because the guitar is phrasing stuff peculiarlarly [is that a friggin word??] conversely, some of our stuff in 6/4 has a real tight groove, so even though it sounds a little different, people can still latch onto it. kinda like the "spoonman" phenomena.

    maybe we should move our band to africa. at least they're comfortable with odd time there.

    damn the masses!

  16. Jimbo


    Dec 4, 2000
    Philadelphia, PA
    i couldn't agree more. brubeck also has a song called "unsquare dance" that's in 7/4. crazy.

    can't think of any other 5/4 songs off the top of my head but whenever odd time sigs come up i always think of "money" by pink floyd. That main bass riff is in 7/4 if you listen closely, but it sounds like 4/4 because of that anticipation thing.

  17. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    there are lots of time sigs and time sig changes in the song linked in my signature, the instrumental. we have sections where we alternate 5/4 and 3/4 back and forth, as well as 7/8 and 9/8, and the 2nd to last section is in 13/8. normally longer sigs like that can be broken up into smaller parts like 6/8 and 7/8, but this one works best as 13.

    and no, 3/4 5/4 is not the same as two measures of 4/4. it all depends on where the accents are.
  18. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    That's ONE bar of 4/4!

    You ODD-time guys should check out trumpeter Don Ellis' Big Band...like Charlie Haden once said-
    "The only thing Don Ellis plays in 4/4 is 'Take 5'".
  19. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    lol, jim. actually, 3/4 5/4 would be one bar of 8/4, or two bars of 4/4, but who's counting, right? ;)
  20. christoph h.

    christoph h.

    Mar 26, 2001
    i once played a song which had a *very* straight 4/4 groove happening with a sudden 9/8 (perhaps phrased more like 6/8 + 3/8) thrown in. the whole piece had a very menacing atmosphere.

    man, it was so cool, but the horns never got it right :bawl:

    also, the main riff of tool's "the grudge" is in 5/4. quarter note pulse.
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