Weekly Question: Weirdest Odd-Time Signature Song

Name a track that rhythmically blows your mind.

logo
Ultimate Guitar
38

Odd time signatures are one of those things that can be described as walking a fine line between two extreme ends.

On one hand, a complex riff can get the listener intrigued and presented with something new and fresh. On the other hand, forcing complexity is one of the worst things a musician can do.

But let's not stray away from the initial idea here. Getting to the point, this week's Wednesday Question is:

What is the weirdest odd-time signature song ever?

We already held a complexity battle a few weeks ago, but this one isn't necessarily about being complex, but rather about stunning the listener with not so typical or traditional time signatures.

Same rules as always apply - only one suggestion per comment, vote up the ideas you support and vote down the ones you dislike. We'll sum up your votes by Friday and bring you another traditional UG Top 10. Show us what you got!

350 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    NakedInTheRain
    i think that schism by tool is one of the more famous odd-time signature songs, so it deserves a spot on this list.
    shreddguitarist
    As much as I love Tool and their song Schism.....I think the weirdest time signature in a song is Headache And A 64th by Ron Jarzombek.....It's in 65/64 and has many underlying poly-meters within.
    adwienc
    Was there any poll on UG in which Tool didn't come on a list?
    henrihell
    They weren't on the best albums of 2013 list. Or 2012. Or 2011..... You get the point.
    shwilly
    Dave Brubeck: Blue Rondo Alla Turk
    It's not the weirdest time signature by any stretch, but you have to put things into perspective: nowadays if you come up with a ridiculous time signature, that's hardly any news because of all the Tools and Dream Theaters and Meshuggahs and whatnot. But back when Take Five and this 'ere classic came out, it was highly uncommon to hear anything that resembled this kind of music. Plus, the pic at the start of this article features the 9/8 time sig, so this seemed like a fitting tribute
    Sixxstarr
    Lol I write in 9/8 all the time...it seems to be how i just naturally write but yeah this was definetly uncommon back then
    JPScralatchtica
    On the subject of 9/8... Rush managed to slip that beast of a riff into "Natural Science" One of my favorite things to play! It's around 2:20
    adwienc
    Nine Inch Nails - March Of The Pigs From Wikipedia: ""March of the Pigs" has an unusual meter, alternating three bars of 7/8 time with one bar of 8/8 time (in effect, a 29/8 time signature)."
    shwilly
    March of the Pigs is an awesome song, but by your logic (or Wikipedia's or whatever) if a band decides to make an outro a little funkier by stopping 1 beat earlier than usual on the last bar you'd get some ridiculous sounding time signatures For instance, take a song like Toxicity by SOAD, which is in 3/4 and has like a 16 bar outro. Imagine the band decided to stop on the penultimate beat of the last bar: you'd get a 47/64 time signature. Or apply the same scenario to a song like Last Exit by Pearl Jam, which is in 5/4. The song has an 8 bar outro, so that would make it 23/32 time In fact, forget about that fictional "stopping one beat too early"-thing: if you analyze that last song you'll notice it keeps alternating between 5/4 (intro, outro and verses) and 4/4 (choruses and break). So if you summed up the all of those -including the occasional added bars before some of the choruses and verses- you'd get like 45 bars in 5/4 and maybe 35 in 4/4, or a 405/320 time signature (81/64 if you will). That makes Pearl Jam sound like the most proggy mofos in the entire universe The reason we don't sum up alternating time signatures is because it makes things sound way more complicated than they actually are. When you're learning to play along with a track like March of the Pigs your brain likes to chop up the song into little bits (7/8 and 8/8 or 4/4) so it's easier to process, or else you'll lose count. That's the whole point of jotting down a time signature: you break down the rhythm until it makes sense to you (if you're already comfortable with 7/8 it doesn't seem too necessary to write it down as 4/4 + 3/4...) And then, of course, you start to rock \m/
    manof1000ages
    I highly recommend that you review how time signatures work, and more fundamentally, how fractions work. Combining 5/4 with "an 8 bar outro" does not get you a time signature based on 32nd notes. I'm really not sure how you did the math to arrive at those numbers. Your underlying point does, however, highlight the fact that there is a tradeoff between a more complex time signature and more time signature changes. At the end of the day, it depends on the feel of the song and what makes sense when counting. For example, "Possum Kingdom" by The Toadies has a note dropped in the middle of the verse riff. One could count this as 15/4. Or 7/4 + 8/4. Or 4/4 + 3/4 + 4/4 + 4/4. Having played the song on drums, I tend to do 7/4 + 8/4 myself. For March of the Pigs, I do 7/8 x 3 + 8/8. Saying that March of the Pigs is in 29/8 is a stretch. But it is still is primarily in an odd time signature and an awesome tune.
    shwilly
    Shucks, you're right -> I should've said 47/4 and 23/4, etc. in those examples but I'm glad my point came accross
    azrael667
    7/8 is not an odd time signature unless you consider 3/4 and 6/8 an odd time signature.
    bradonbass2112
    Dance of Eternity by Dream Theater
    GeriatricNinja
    Apparently this song has something like 120 time signature changes throughout it
    shreddguitarist
    210
    Darth Crow
    Only 106, if I remember correctly
    the_bi99man
    I'm looking through the official Scenes from a Memory tabbook, edited by John Petrucci, right now. Not even gonna bother trying to count the changes in Dance of Eternity. Most of the song changes with every bar. Among the time signatures used are 3/8, 7/8, 5/8, 7/16, 5/4, 3/4, 6/4, 12/8, 5/16, 15/8, 9/8, 11/8, 6/16, and one section with several bars of 4/4.
    Darth Crow
    Yeah, "only" ... but I don't know. Dance of Eternity is a very complex song, but I would really say that Erotomania is weirder though, ehm, "simpler".
    westcoast43
    dream theater does time changes just for the sake of time changes, no artistic quality, no real feeling. the best time signature songs are not the most dramatic, but the ones that groove and bring you inside
    N-D
    Also Mr. Bungle was a quite crazy band) So, Mr. Bungle - "Love Is A Fist"
    henrihell
    Mr bungle is pretty much wierder than anything ever made. And that's including every artform imaginable. And it's a good thing.
    thenightmareclu
    ttng - chinchilla
    GeriatricNinja
    Frank Zappa - The Black Page #2
    Wininacan
    this list should be nothing but zappa
    snowpig
    Although this is french, these guys are amazing. Check out the solo at 1:22
    jonathan.keeler
    Well that all depends on groupings, I could use 9/8 as 4/4 with a quaver on the end. That would definitely throw people. Or I could group it in 5/8 and 4/8. That would be complex.
    jonathan.keeler
    I'd like to nominate some king crimson. Possibly 'Discipline' because one guitar is playing in 5/8 and the other in 4/4
    Quicksand15
    King Crimson's "Discipline" is a perfect example for weird time signatures/polymeters while still being wonderful music at the same time. I mean, everyone could write a 45-min piece with trillions of time changes, but would just that fact make it worth listening? That's exactly why "Money" should be on this list, because it grooves regardless of the 7/4 beat. Same with a whole lot of Tool songs. Odd times just for the sake of it are boring to me - it just seems to me like those bands are bragging "look how clever we are!"
    robo37
    Remainder the Black Dog by Steven Wilson. Criminally underrated IMO.
    N-D
    Oh, another strange time signatures: Radiohead - "Pyramid Song"
    irotinmyskin
    "The song is infamous among fans for its time signature, which many find hard to discern or even nonexistent. However, one possibility is that “Pyramid Song” could be based around an uncommon subdivision of 8/8 time (3+3+2) in which the eighth notes are swung. This could also be expressed as 16/8 time subdivided as 3+3+4+3+3. Another interpretation which can be found be following the drum pattern is a cycle of 5/4-4/4-4/4-3/4 that repeats itself throughout the song."
    silent_reaper
    I think Myxomatosis takes the cake on odd Radiohead time sigs
    Just2340
    Myxomatosis can be played in cut time at around 100bpm, just a very syncopated rhythm. Some more unusual ones from Radiohead: Everything In Its Right Place can be interpreted in 10/4 or 4/4 + 6/4, and 2+2=5 starts at 7/4 then goes to 8/4.
    third(-)eye
    Also 4/4. Here are some Radiohead songs that are actually in odd time signatures: 15 Step (5/4) Morning Bell (10/8) 2 + 2 = 5 (First part is in 7/8) Sail to the Moon (All over the damn place) Everything In Its Right Place (alternating 4/4 and 6/4) Go To Sleep (alternating 4/4 and 12/8) Let Down (polyrhythm of 5/8 over 4/4)
    jonathan.keeler
    Blotted science - Activation Synthesis theory Fast tempo, signatures of 11/16 and 9/16. Plus Ron Jarzombek is not afraid to use quintuplets and septuplets in his music.
    Random9000
    I think it really comes down to what you think is weird. I personally don't think Money is a "weird" song persay, but everyone knows it. I wouldn't be surprised if it made the list. On another note, I think anything Blotted Science would work. Those guys are on a whole different level.
    Silver Blues
    Yeah, Blotted Science is amazing. I don't think any of it is "weird", but I'd give a nod to Adenosine Breakdown as far as odd time signature goes.
    iammclovin
    Happy I wasn't the first to think of Blotted Science, Cretaceous Chasm is another crazy one!!
    entropicxdisson
    Tool - Lateralus 9/8 to 8/8 to 7/8 in the chorus 987 being the 16th number of the fibonacci sequence, the lyrics also follow this sequence syllable wise.
    jonathan.keeler
    Psyopus - imogens puzzle Literally the most complex pollytempo piece I have ever heard. There are septuplets over quintuplets here and it is all played on one guitar neck with tapping, it's just inhuman.
    jonathan.keeler
    There are so many fantastic songs with such mind blowingly complex time signatures that is something like money by pink floyd wins ill be pissed. Yes it's a good song, but it's a slow 7/4 with a 4/4 solo. Hardly mindblowing.
    Floyd Phoenix
    Some Yes, anyone?
    jorgdisseldorp
    Definitely, I was thinking about Yes - South Side of the Sky, not so much the verses and choruses, since they're all in 4/4, but the interlude, some lovely changes, but still incredibly melodic, nothing sounds forced (to me). Wakeman at his best, and the vocal parts are great too.
    jorgdisseldorp
    Definitely, I was thinking about Yes - South Side of the Sky, not so much the verses and choruses, since they're all in 4/4, but the interlude, some lovely changes, but still incredibly melodic, nothing sounds forced (to me). Wakeman at his best, and the vocal parts are great too.
    Vash_15
    How has no one said Tetragrammatron by The Mars Volta? Parts of that song don't even have a consistent time signature.
    Darth Crow
    Dream Theater - Erotomania The obvious choice would probably be The Dance of Eternity, but Erotomania is just... weirder
    Moovis
    My vote goes for Chinchilla by TTNG. Though if you want something simpler but still in an odd time signature (and is also a cool song) Providence by Foals is a good one (it's in 7/4 throughout)Foals - Providence
    Bigdubb
    Good to see someone on UG digs TTNG.
    third(-)eye
    Extra Life has the weirdest time signatures of any band I've ever heard.
    AccountAttempt4
    Red Fang have a song titled 15/16.
    FistOfFury
    Master of Puppets by Metallica - the tail in the verse riff is just something I can't wrap my head around. It's not a full 3/4 and it doesn't sound like 11/16 either.
    jamie_hough
    Are you serious?
    FistOfFury
    It might not be a 'weird time signature song', but I'm serious. Can you tell me what it is?
    the_bi99man
    4/4. It's just a little short stop on an 8th note or something. I don't know the technicalities, but it doesn't break the time signature.
    link no1
    Wrong, Lars Ulrich can only play in 2 time signatures: 4/4 and 16/16. It's rumored he's also capable of 32/32, but I think that's nothing buy an urban legend.
    metallideth88
    BEATLES - Ticket to Ride!
    pololski65