Time Signatures

why do we never see songs in 5/4 or 5/8 timing? are there any semi-well known pieces in this sig in the united states? someone mentioned (either on this board or another one i go to) that africans (the ones in africa, not america) used more complex beats. what was so complex about them? did they use “odd” time sigs?

I think the “Mission: Impossible” theme is 5/4.

Dah! Dah! Dah-dah Dah!

Dah! Dah-Dah Dah! Dah!

D.C. al so on and so forth.

Also “Take Five” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, form the 1960 album “Time Out” which consists mostly of pieces in odd time signatures. Also “Living In the Past” by Jethro Tull, I forget which album.

Also Afrikaan Beat forgot the artist

Bits of Mission:Impossible are indeed in 5/4, and then there’s some transitions from that into 3/2, as well as some more traditional signatures.

The piece is a real mess to play. We did it as our signature piece in high school band.

And somehow it sounds good. Even when played by a (admittedly pretty well practiced) high school band.

But we cursed the whole way.

As for the using of “more complex” beats in African music, I believe that refers to the use of polyrhythms. That is where you have someone playing one meter over another: one person plays a bar of 4 while another plays a bar of 3 in the same amount of time for example. You most often hear that sort of thing in pop music when someone plays a quarter-note triplet (three quarter-notes in the space of two). It’s bunches of fun.

Adding to the list of pop songs in odd meters, it took me forever to realize that Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” was in 7/4, because he wrote the theme so well that it doesn’t seem to be in an odd time.

If you want to extend into the not-so-mainstream-but-still-popular end of things, most progressive rock bands use odd time signatures regularly. Yes, Rush, Tool, etc.

And Time Out was deliberately put together to be a collection of pieces in odd time signatures, thus the title.

We are playing Mission Impossible in my high school band rigth now as a matter of fact. It is pretty hard to play though.

for some reason, i hate (playing) triplets. they sound pretty cool tho’. one recent song i kinda like that has that kind of feel is “stupid girl” by cold.

Triplets are fine sounding.

5/4 is a royal pain in the ass but it does pop up. One of Rush’s favorite tricks is to alternate 5/4 with 4/4 during bridges.

But you’ll never top the charts with it.

The score of Into the Woods (and probably a lot of other Sondheim work) changes time signatures all the time. The opening number is about 15 minutes long and uses everything from 12/8 to 4/4 to 3/4 to 3/2 to 9/8 to 15/8 etc. But that’s rare. Without really knowing if I’m right, I would estimate that less than 10% of the songs the average person hears are anything except 4/4, 2/4, 3/4, or 6/8.

Gustav Holst’s Mars, Bringer of War is in 5. The finale of Stravinksy’s The Firebird is in 7. And the beginning of Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat from Cats is in 13.

I remember a weird arrangement of British folk music that we played in high school band which had all sorts of wacky key signatures, including things like 1.5/4.

I don’t have the music in front of me, but I believe Classical Gas by Mason Williams had some 5/4 measures thrown in for fun.

Metallica, baby. Primus. Rush.

Also, the obvious Money by Pink Floyd.

Led Zepplin’s Black Dog has a cool 5/4 bridge. The song is 4/4, but in the bridge the drums keep going at four beats to the measure for five measures while the guitar solo does a five beat riff for four measures. At the end of it they’re all back at the same spot. It has a very interesting feel to it.

Off to Cafe Society.

DrMatrix - GQ Moderator

Don’t everybody jump on me at once, but didn’t (doesn’t) Burt Bacarach write a lot of non-4/4 stuff?

As for pop music, here are some examples:

Marianne Faithful’s “Something Better” was popular in the 60s and is in 5/4.

The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun” switches up the time signature a little. The bridge seems to be in 11/8, if I’m hearing it correctly.

Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” has sections in 7/8.

Andrew Lloyd Webber used some unusual time signatures throughout Jesus Christ Superstar.

Some less popular artists that use irregular time signatures are:

Poster Children (regularly)
Fugazi (occasionally)
Ween (occasionally)
Primus (regularly–yeah, they were already mentioned, but they deserve another nod)
Phish (regularly)
Frank Zappa (regularly)
The Breeders (occasionally)
The Pixies (occasionally–ok, only with a few songs from Trompe Le Monde)

This is all a very small percentage of what most people listen to, of course.

Cat Steven’s “Rubylove” is in a fast 7/8 - you count…

Who'll|be  |my  |
Love? |    |    |
You'll|be  |my  |
Love  |    |    |
You'll|be  |my  |
Sky   |a-  |bove|

My favorite 5/4 song?

Living in the Past by Jethro Tull.

My keyboard even has a “5/4 blues” rhythm."

Cool sounding beat, IMHO.

Traditional African (and thus a good deal of Latin American) music is either in duple meter (2/4 or 4/4) or triple meter (3/4), and as someone mentioned, is often polyrhythmic (with one meter superimposed on top of another. This is called sesquialta meter in some Latin American styles, I think).

Classical Indian music is loaded with very very complex meters (anything from 5 to 7 to 10 to 11 to, well, I honestly don’t know where it stops, but it’s some pretty damn amazing, and sophisticated stuff).

Odd meters don’t show up in Western music, AFAIK, until mid to late 19th century, most commonly with opera where composers would alter meters to fit the rhythms of the text.

By the early to mid 20th century every meter and its mom had been tried in the “classical” music world.

As far as pop, rock, and jazz, well, the 60’s and 70’s were a time of serious experimentation with that. The Beatle’s Good Morningchanges* meter often throughout, though the Beatle’s never really got the hang of odd meters IMHO. Neither did Floyd with their pathetic attempt at a 7 in Money. (BTW, I love Floyd, but they were only at home in 4/4).

The main riff of Led Zep’s The Ocean is an alternating 8/8 and 7/8, though if you wanted to you could call it a 15/8.

As mentioned, the prog rock guys were all over the odd meter thing. Yes, Genesis, ELP, King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Rush, etc. all often have very complex time signatures in their music.

In jazz, Brubeck, Don Ellis, and Eric Dolphy are a few that experimented (successfully, IMHO) with complex meters.

Just like prog rock, fusion in the 70’s also employed a lot of complex time signatures. I don’t think John McLaughlin, and his band Mahavishnu Orchestra, used 4/4 twice in the 70’s. Others: Chick Corea and his band Return to Forever, and Weather Report.

Just want to make another honorable mention of Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” which is a superb 7, and one of the very few pop songs in an odd meter to really be successful. Odd meters don’t make it into pop easily. The symmetry of 4/4 is much easier for the layperson to comprehend.