Odd Time Signatures and How I Got Started Getting into it – Written by a Non-Drummer (Part 2)

(… Continued from Part 1)

Understanding larger number time signatures

A lot of times, a song may have something in, let’s say 13/8. There are many ways the bar of 13/8 could be phrased, but one way could be a segment of 6/8 (which we’re all so familiar with), plus a bar of 7/8. Here’s a simple example you’ll find in “Jacob’s Ladder” (Live) by Rush at the 4:38 mark. It’s phrased as 6/8+7/8 (or think of it as 6/8+6/8 with an extra beat). The feel is really a 6/8 feel, but I have found that extra beat a really powerful tool to keep things interesting in the song. Sometimes that little kick is all you need. This example is a great one because each of the notes are different. Alex Lifeson’s notes on the guitar are just simply mapped one-to-one on each of the different 6 (or 7) beats, which makes this example easier to follow. Of course, you are free to add syncopated elements to your own productions and compositions.

Breaking down each full bar into different portions seems to be a shared perspective and approach. If you ask in person or watch many of the instructional drummer videos out there, like this one with Mike Portnoy. you would notice that being explained too.

In my own tune “Limping Milestone Celebration” at the 3:00 mark, the first 2 bars of 14 is just a break down into bars of 3+3+3+5. (Or you could think of it as having a 6/8 feel but with beats added/dropped in the final segment).

(In reality, there’s really no “separation”. If you think about it, this whole ‘odd time signature’ business is really as a means of transcribing or formally describe what’s going on with the song. Hell, you could even argue all all songs are in 1s (and set up your click track/ metronome in your digital audio recording workstation that way))!

Continue to Part 3

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