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Weirdest Time Signatures

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by Petary791, Feb 27, 2005.

  1. Petary791


    Feb 20, 2005
    Michigan, USA
    What are some weird time signatures you play or have heard? My lead guitar player is kinda tone deaf and a few other things (mind you he's an amazing shredder) but when he writes stuff, I kinda have to slap him and tell him to get it on a regular beat.

    -I'm havin a brain fart right now, but I remember that there's a Rush song in like 13/4 or one bar of 6/4 and one bar of 7/4, but I like to be super cool and call it 13/4.

    -The intro of You Enjoy Myself by Phish... wow. Bass is playing 3/4 I think, keyboard is 5/4 and guitar is like 7/4. It's intense.

    -Primus does some funky stuff in like 9/4 and 10/4...

    On a side note, what's the difference between 6/8 and 6/4?
  2. sargebaker

    sargebaker Commercial User

    May 2, 2004
    Montreal QC CA
    owner/builder, ISLAND Instrument Mfg.
    21/16 Planet X
  3. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california
    i wrote a funk tune where the A section is a bar of 9/8 and 11/8 alternating,the next section is in 4/4 and the part after that is in 13/8. and yet it doesnt sound that disjointed ;)
  4. elros


    Apr 24, 2004
    Proprietor, Helland Musikk Teknologi
    Well. Some time signatures sound natural but are weird when studied, while others sound all messed up but are in fact simple to understand.

    The Flecktones has one called "almost 12" or something, it is in 11/16 but sounds totally natural and fluid thanks to their brilliant composition and phrasing. They also have a bunch of others that are of equal quality.

    King Crimson has one called "THRAK" which sounds absolutely insane... and is insane, as well. (bad example?) Starts out in 5/8 and then they seperate into two trios and play 5/8 and 7/8 against each other for a while. Of course, KC has lots of other stuff, probably much that is even more insane. I listened to the "Eyes Wide Open" DVD and they had a track where, IIRC, Fripp played 11/8 over Belew who played 5/8 and I think Gunn and Mastelotto did 9/8... cool.

    Stravinsky has some polyrythnic things happening, as well. As does Dream Theater. And Frank Zappa. Enjoy.
  5. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Ben strange has a tune that creates a melody out of about 6 different time signatures. It's among the best use of odd time signatures I've heard.
  6. Petary791


    Feb 20, 2005
    Michigan, USA
    How did I forget!? The song Eleven by Primus is in 11/4; sweet song man.
  7. I tell you: Romanian folk music!
  8. Th9nker


    Mar 18, 2002
    Hell, there are a lot of Rush songs in odd time sigs...

    I was trying to think of an often played tune and thought of Pink Floyd's "Money"... It's in 7/4...

    Then it goes back to 4/4 and rocks out at the end...
  9. fallon


    Jul 6, 2003
    "Keep it greasy" Frank Zappa,Joe's Garage double c.d.
  10. I played in a blues trio here in New Orleans for a while that did a number in 17/8. ouch...!

    from the lows,

  11. nastyn8c


    Feb 7, 2005
    Tampa, FL
    A guitarist I play with wrote something recently that is in 13/8. It sounds really cool.
  12. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Los Lobotomys' "Party In Simon's Pants" has some 4/4 sections, but the main theme is in 17/8. Cool tune.
  13. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    A 6/8 measure is a two-beat measure in which each beat equals a dotted quarter note and it's subdivided in three eighth notes for a total of six eighths, hence the name. That way of subdividing the beats is called ternary subdivision. 6/8 is a ternary measure / meter. The binary "version" of this measure is 2/4. In this case, each beat, which equals a quarter note, is subdivided in two eighths, not three. Other examples are 9/8 (same as 3/4 but ternary) and 12/8 (ternary version of 4/4).

    Theoretically, a 6/4 measure should work the same, with each beat equallying a dotted half note for a total of six quarters, but the few times I've faced this time signature everybody counts just six regular beats without thinking of ternary subdivision. Some people even think of it as two 3/4 measures. Check Wes Montgomery's "West Coast Blues" for an example.

    Hope this helps.

    P.S.: A ternary measure is the result of multiplying a binary measure by 3/2. A binary measure shouldn't be divisible by that number.
  14. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    (Maybe I should post a single, long message...)

    Frank Zappa has a tune called "Thirteen", which is in 13/8, and he explains to the audience how to subdivide it. This is a live recording available in "You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore" Vol. 6. Also, in "Shut Up'n Play Yer Guitar" there's a tune called "Five-Five-FIVE", which is in 20/8 grouped as two 5/8 measures plus a 5/4 measure. "Catholic Girls" from "Joe's Garage Act I". Has an intro in 9/8 (not ternary subdivided) and a middle section that goes like 9/8 + 9/8 + 13/8 repeated three times , then two 10/8 measures and this whole sequence is repeated.

    Since I can't post attachments bigger than 500K, I want to share the link below with all of you interested in odd time signatures. It's my transcription of a Zappa (Can you say I'm a fan? :hyper: ) short instrumental piece which he used as a bridge between "Echidna's Arf (Of You)" and "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?". I transcribed it from "Roxy And Elsewhere". You'll get a Zip file (773 KB) with the tune in mp3 format plus four PDFs: The score for guitar, bass and drums, guitar part, bass part and drums part. There's a keyboard in the recording also, but I was too lazy to transcribe it. This material works perfectly for a trio, anyway. I put my fingerings in the bass part (4-string) and suggested to play a section with slapping. I use this as a material for my classes, since I think it's a great exercise. My students feel intimidated by the 5/8 meter and the fast tempo at first, but after explaining how it works and how should they practice it, they enjoy it a lot.

    Hope you also enjoy it and find it educational. Let me know when you play it! As always with YouSendIt links, the file will be available for the next seven days only and for a limited number of downloads (maybe a supporting member could post it as an attachment).



    BTW, the bass player in the recording is Tom Fowler.
  15. 7flat5


    Nov 28, 2003
    Upstate NY
    And Bulgarian, Macedonian, etc. All around the Balkan countries there is raging dance music in odd (7, 9, 11, 13, 15) rhythms. Disorienting at first, but after you get the groove, so to speak, it is totally addictive. 4/4 just doesn't have it after a couple hours of this stuff. Lots of folk-oriented bands have delved into this.
  16. elros


    Apr 24, 2004
    Proprietor, Helland Musikk Teknologi
    Yes. The stuff from Balkan can be wild!

    I think I read somewhere that they based the music on the rythms of the dance, and so they got odd time signatures and wacky phrasings.

    Check out "Balkanology" by Ivo Papasov and his orchestra.
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I was given a written bass line, which was two measures of 15/4 - then went to 3 measures of 10/4 - written by a local Jazz pro/composer!
  18. Hi Bruce that wasn't Matt Pollard was it?

    I played his quasi cabaret/opera at the Joogleberry Theatre last year in Brighton and it was pretty intense - just becasue there were hardly ever more than two bars in a row of the same time signature - there wasn't any 15/9 but it was pretty insane from a counting point of view. But there were bars of 5, 6, 7, 2 and 9 all next to each other - it was nutty stuff.

    The only thing that pissed me off was that becasue the rest of the band were classically trained they all thought that being able to sight read perfectly meant we only need about three full rehearsals - when we needed about 10 in treality to nail it - hence the first and only performance was something of a disapointment as we managed to play it all pretty well, but with more rehearsal it could have been amazing - I was actually surprised I didn't make many, or any, mistakes and the brilliant piano player did - but then again I learnt my parts so I didn't have to rely solely on the music. As a side note I;m crap with obscure time sigantures and should know more about them - 3/4, 5/4 and 7/4 are about all I'm any good at.

  19. Have you heard Fiflet and Hamre? They are WILD! They use lot of Bulgarian folk music combined with norwegian and so on. Hamre is a great drummer, and Fiflet is way cool on his trekkspill. (Is it accordion in English? I'm not sure...)
    I also saw them once with Terje Rypdal....Great stuff!
  20. j-raj

    j-raj Bassist: Educator/Soloist/Performer Supporting Member

    Jan 14, 2003
    Indianapolis, IN

    IIRC, there is a section in 19/16... pretty odd if you ask me.