View Full Version : Lesson #046 - Defining Odd-Time Signatures/Meters

02-06-2006, 09:14 PM
In this lesson, I have tried to clarify the meaning of odd time meters, by analyzing and defining what exactly a time signature is.

The meter of a piece of music is it's basic rhythm. A time signature is a symbol placed on a staff, commonly a numerical fraction, which defines the meter. The numerator indicates the number of beats in each measure, and the
denominator represents the kind of note that gets a beat.

In 4/4 time, each measure is equal to the value of 4 quarter notes. The top number tells you how many beats there are in a measure. The bottom number tells you what kind of note gets the beat.

<img src="images/!charts/timesignatures-a.gif">

In 5/4 time, each measure is equal to the value of 5 quarter notes.

<img src="images/!charts/timesignatures-b.gif">

In 7/4 time, each measure is equal to the value of 7 quarter notes.

<img src="images/!charts/timesignatures-c.gif">

<img src="images/attach/wmv.gif">For a video demonstration, click here. (http://www.virgildonati.com/msgboard/attachments/groove-oddtime.wmv)

Once you understand how you construct a measure of time, you can then place events within these measures in practically any rhythmic arrangement not exceeding the number of beats defined by the time signature.

This first part of odd time meter lessons deals exclusively with quarter note meters. I have chosen 5/4 and 7/4, as they are two commonly used odd time signatures. It's an accepted practice to subdivide odd time measures to help feel the meter of the rhythm, and to keep your place. For example, 7/4 could be subdivided as one measure of 4/4, and one measure of 3/4, or 3 and 4, or 2-2-3, or any number of combinations, whichever would best define the meter (the arrangement of rhythms). This is a practice I tend to find useful mainly for sixteenth note meters, but for quarter note meters, more often than not, I choose to feel it as written.

Basic 5/4 Groove.

<img src="images/!charts/groove-quarters-a.gif">

Eighth note Groove in 5/4.

<img src="images/!charts/groove-quarters-b.gif">

Eighth note Groove in 5/4 with double time snare feel.

<img src="images/!charts/groove-quarters-c.gif">

5/4 faster tempo variations.

<img src="images/!charts/groove-quarters-d.gif">

In this variation, there is a hint of a 3 feel starting on the last eighth

<img src="images/!charts/groove-quarters-e.gif">

A few bars later on the video, you'll see I stretch this idea out.

<img src="images/!charts/groove-quarters-f.gif">

It's important to keep track of the 5/4 pulse while playing the 3 feel, so to this end practice counting in 5, while playing this exercise.

<img src="images/!charts/groove-quarters-g.gif">

Basic 7/4 Groove.

<img src="images/!charts/groove-quarters-h.gif">

Keep your place - Don't forget to count!!!

<img src="images/!charts/groove-quarters-k.gif">

<img src="images/attach/wmv.gif">For a video demonstration, click here. (http://www.virgildonati.com/msgboard/attachments/groove-oddtime.wmv)