Quote by Music Theory For Dummies
Asymmetrical Time Signatures
Asymmetrical time signatures (also sometimes called complex or irregular
time signatures) generally contain five or seven beats, compared to the traditional
two-, three-, and four-beat measure groupings we have looked at so far.
Asymmetrical time signatures are very common in traditional music from
around the world, both in European folk music and in Eastern (particularly
Indian) popular and folk music.
When a piece of music with an asymmetrical time signature is played, the
pulse, or beat, of the song feels and sounds quite a bit different than music
written under simple or compound time signatures. For example, in Figure
4-21, the pulse is defined by the placements of the half notes in each grouping
making the stresses fall on the third beat in the first measure and on the
fourth beat in the second measure. In Figure 4-22, the beaming of the eighth
notes shows where the stresses are to occur — on the first eighth note of
each set of beamed notes.
Music with 5/4, 5/8, and 5/16 time signatures is usually divided up into two
pulses, either two beats + three beats or vice versa. The stress pattern does
not have to repeat itself from measure to measure — the only thing constant
is that there are still five beats in each measure.

So I dont understand this, so I'm probably dumber than dumb. Thats an extract from the book music theory for dummies.

How do I count in the said time signatures? I dont understand

Pg 53. For those who have it and want to refer to it.
Quote by luv090909
So I dont understand this, so I'm probably dumber than dumb. Thats an extract from the book music theory for dummies.

How do I count in the said time signatures? I dont understand

Pg 53. For those who have it and want to refer to it.

I think 5/4 would be "1 2 3 4 5"
5/8 would be "1 & 2 & 3"
and 5/16 would be "1 e & a 2"
all repeating, of course

same with 7s
7/4 = 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
7/8 = 1 & 2 & 3 & 4
7/16 = 1 e & a 2 e &
well, 5/4 and 7/4 are simple (so is 5/8, but it's different) you have 5 and 7 beats in a measure and the quarter note gets the beat. the denominator really plays no part unless you're reading music. it's basically like, you have 5 beats in a measure (think take five by dave brubeck) so you count 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 etc etc. for 7/4, same thing, just 7 beats in a measure. for 5/8, you have 5 beats in a measure but the eighth note gets the beat. meaning every time you stomp your foot it's an eighth note. that kind of **** only plays a role in written music. basically, the first number is how many times you stomp your foot in a measure. the second number is what musical figure gets the foot stomp. got it?
Ahh no. I realised I phrased my question wrong.

Which beats get the accent? Or does that depend on the notes?

And thanks

Edit:- The Dave Brubeck Quartet song is awesome! Just checked it out
Last edited by luv090909 at Aug 16, 2009,
Have a listen to some great examples. Jethro Tull's single, Living in the Past is in 5/4 with emphasis on 1 and 3. Dave Brubeck's band released Unsquare Dance which charted in the sixties and was in 7/4 time. And one of It Bites' songs has a sequence in 13/8 with emphasis reversed every bar.
I love working in 5/4 as it has such energy and drive. I find 7/4 to be rather hesitant like the performer is unsure or lacking confidence. Useful techniques, though.
I pick up my guitar and play
Just like Yesterday

T C Ellis Series 2 LP w/Skatterbrane Quiescence pups
Cort EVL-K6
Yamaha RGX211 modded
H&S Electric 12-string
Shaftsbury Ricki 4001
'84 Fender Yale
Roland Cube 15x

ehh if you're asking what i think you're asking, it really depends on the song. but i might have something i learned that can help you.

i'm a bass player, and in my school we were playing a medley of the songs from the movie catch me if you can. sick ass bass parts, surprising for a movie. but in one section the meter switched between 7/8, 3/4, and 5/8. what my conductor told me to do was count the 7/8 section like (remember, 7 beats a measure, eighth note gets the beat)

1 & 2 & 3 & &

one and two and three and and

think like, down up down up down up up.

and 5/8 was the same thing but shortened 2/8 (1/4, one beat kind of)

1 & 2 & &
one and two and and
down up down up up

make any sense? did i help at all?

edit: i'm just trying to explain this as no frills, easy to comprehend as possible. i feel as if a lot of the time people give others the full explanation without giving them the simple one first. the way i look at it, i can tell you the simple, understandable explanation and you can go back to your book and understand the full one.
Last edited by assparade69 at Aug 16, 2009,
The difference between 7/4 and 7/8 is relative to the tempo of the song. For example if you have a passage in 7/4 at 120BPM playing straight quarter notes (meaning 7 quarter notes per measure) followed by a tempo change to 60BMP and a time signature of 7/8, with 7 eighth notes in the measure, it will be indistinguishable.

At the same tempo, 7/8 is just like double speed 7/4.

Which note gets the accent is up to you. Usually it's the first note but you can experiment with different note lengths and accents. You can have a rhythm which stretches through more than just one measure like this...

First measure: 7/4 - 3 half notes and 1 quarter note (adds up to 7 quarters)

Second measure: 7/4 - 1 quarter note and 3 half notes (adds up to 7 quarters)

So rather than 7 quarter notes, you play a series of half notes. Problem is 4 half notes won't fit into the measure, so you have to use a quarter note at the end of the first measure, and an quarter note at the beginning of the second measure. These quarter notes will be tied (so they sound just like another half note) but they pass across the bar lines.

It's like playing in 2 different time signatures at once. I believe the term is poly rhythm.

I hope that makes sense.
Typically time signatures are classified as one of three things: simple, compound, and hybrid.

Simple time refers to any time signature where pulses are divided into 2. 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 are all in simple time.

Compound time refers to any time signature where the pulses are divided into 3. 3/8, 6/8, 9/8, and 12/8 are all in compound time.

Hybrid time refers to any time signature where some pulses are divided into 2 and other pulses are divided into three. This means that certain beats are longer than others. 5/8, 7/8, 8/8, 9/8, 10/8, and 11/8 are all in hybrid time.

As a general rule, when the denominator is 4, it is always in simple time, regardless of what the numerator is. 5/4 is counted 1+2+3+4+5+; 4/4 is counted 1+2+3+4+; 7/4 is counted 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+. The number of beats and pulses will be equal.

When the denominator is an 8 (or 16) it is in either compound or hybrid time. The actual number of beats will be less than the pulses, as there are either two or three beats per pulse. The grouping of eighth notes should give insight as to whether the song is in compound or hybrid time, as some time signatures (9/8, 12/8, 15/8) can be ambiguous as to whether they are hybrid or compound. For each group of notes, the pulse is on the first note of the group. Thus compound signatures will have all notes grouped into the equivalent length of a dotted quarter note. Hybrid signatures will have notes grouped into equivalent lengths of dotted quarter notes and regular quarter notes. 9/8 (compound) is counted 1+a2+a3+a, while 9/8 (hybrid) is counted one of four ways (depending on the grouping): 1+a2+3+4+, or 1+2+a3+4+, or 1+2+3+a4+, or 1+2+3+4+a.