Odd Time Signature Advice

May 19, 2017

I don't know about you, but I used to have trouble with odd time signatures. Here's how I remedied that.

Adam Neely's bass lessons on youtube are amazing sources of knowledge about time signatures and theory in general, and that's where I learned how to experiment with odd signatures. However, just knowledge isn't exactly enough. You have to listen to some and feel the strange signature. A great band to listen to is TOOL (the one with Maynard James Keenan, etc. etc.), as MUCH of their music is in obscure time signatures. Once you get used to those songs, listen to math rock (a good band is Totorro, spelled exactly like the adorable fluff ball of the character from the movie/anime). Try playing a song on your instrument in odd time signatures, and build a new mental metronome to count that timing.

When you're writing in odd time signatures, avoid what Adam Neely calls the "clave" of the time signature. For instance, in 5/4, the "clave" is two dotted quarter notes, then two quarter notes. This is a common 5/4 rhythm, but it's a bit bland when used over and over again (it's used in the mission impossible theme song). There are thousands of rhythmic combination with even just eight notes, so you can pretty much subdivide it however you want to.

That's all the advice I have, if anyone else has some, the you can put it down in the comments, I guess.


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