weird time signatures

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  • @alonetogether  Feb 8

    ive been experimenting with bizzare time signatures lately, but i havent really been able to do anything but make basic metronome tracks for them.

    my first attempt was doing something in pi squared / square root 2, but ive since moved into non constant time signatures, where the beat and measures are functions of the time the beat is at

    i dunno if anyone else works with nonstandard time signatures but if anyome is interested id be happy to share

  • @jodv Feb 8

    I started working on something (as yet unfinished) in 5/4, but that seems almost boring compared to the stuff you're talking about 😅

  • @candle  Feb 8

    I did a song in 16/1 at 500bpm. The wonderful thing about my DAW (Jeskola Buzz) is that you can do things in some pretty strange time sigs because it's base unit is the Tick (one line of the sequencer) & it has a setting for Ticks Per Beat (TPB) that goes from 1 to 25. One of my favourites is 5/3 (five dotted half notes/bar) or even 16/5 (five TPB - 16 beats per par).

    See You In The Shadows…

  • @alonetogether  Feb 8

    @candle that sounds pretty convenient. I've been having to do all the calculations myself and insert everything manually so its a time consuming process.

    @jodv i actually think 5/4 is pretty cool. I have a terrible time keeping in time while im playing it on the guitar. The weird stuff is really only possible with computers

  • @rshakesp  Feb 9

    To say the wired stuff is only possible on computers does a lot of musicians and composers a disservice! Now to imagine anyone had heard it that’s another thing!
    But there is a whole movement coined the New Complexionists of contemporary composers who work with utterly crazy time signature shifts as well as bending every other rule - and produce fascinating music

    Give that one a go...

  • @rshakesp  Feb 9

    And I did a song this week with phrase endings in 4,6,5 and 6 respectively- I think it went ok because people talked about interesting phasing not prog time signatures..

  • @alonetogether  Feb 9

    @rshakesp you're absolutely right! I meant to say the weird stuff im working on, as i need to precise down to the 1000th of a second but I absolutely should not have discounted all the weird stuff people are doing by hand!

  • @alyxanderjames  Feb 9

    Y’all are magical. I can barely keep 3/4 and 4/4 straight lol

  • @candle  Feb 9

    @rshakesp I agree. There's tons of talented musicians & composers who use crazy time sigs & time sig changes in their songs. Computers just let us less talented folk aspire to their greatness with more ease.

    @alonetogether, it's a DAW based on Tracker interfaces of Music Composition. And because Trackers base everything on Ticks (one line in their sequencer), playing around with time sigs is pretty easy - though it sometimes takes a little math to get things to display conveniently 😉

    @alyxanderjames: I think when it comes to my live playing, I just end up not counting & going on feeling. I don't even try to sit down & count out the time sig or even the BPM after. Better musicians than I might want to try to figure it out, but I don't. I go for feel over being on beat, I guess. Probably a good thing that I don't play in a band then 😁

    See You In The Shadows…

  • @zecoop  Feb 9

    My third song "Voyager" has a bunch of time signature changes in it. I have no idea what they are or where they are, because I just played what felt and sounded right to me. I know that I was dropping beats (no not that kind) here and there. I love listening to things in 5/4 and there's an 11/8 song on one of my old Kansas records that always sounded cool. 😀

  • @bradbrubaker  Feb 9

    Not sure if you're looking for stuff like this exactly, but there are some songs at the #odd-time-signature tag:

  • @wrenarcher  Feb 9

    A couple of my favorite bands are Rush and Tool both of which routinely write in odd time signatures.

    I think because I’ve listened to both bands off and on for decades and know their songs so well, I’m able to “feel” those odd times somewhat naturally.

    Every now and again it’s crept into a song or two I’ve written... not for the sake of just writing something in 7/8 or 11/8 or what have you but because it felt right for the song.

  • @smileymn Feb 9

    I just recorded a tune in 7/4, but then had free/rubato vocals over the top, and eventually kept a steady 1/8th note pulse from the 7/4 but with random improvised hits, so some 3/4, some 4/4, some not.

  • @dock  Feb 9

    Odd time sigs can be fun. I like 7/4 because it adds a lilt. But I think trying to write something mathematical like you were talking about misses the expressive component of music. I have recently been playing stuff into my DAW and then if I adjust it to the grid it kills the song.

  • @tomslatter  Feb 9

    'write something mathematical like you were talking about misses the expressive component of music' - I think it's more accurate to say it's a different way of being expressive. Bach was all about the intellectual end but no-one would say his stuff isn't expressive for example.

    But yeah, sticking too much to the grid kills some styles of music.

    I'm pretty prog in my approach. 7/8 feels more natural than 4/4.

    I'm currently working on a song (not for FAWM) that has alternating bars of 31 and 33/8. Just cos that's how it turned up.

  • @dasbinky  Feb 9

    @tomslatter Is alternating bars of 31 and 33/8 just intentionally coming in a little early once every four bars? I feel like I do that accidentally in live situations all the time. 😉

  • @fuzzy  Feb 9

    I'd say that most of my tunes are in weird time signatures, often two or more in the same song, and sometimes two or three playing at the same time; I like to overlap them and see what happens.
    I don't write them down and just keep them in my head as I'm playing.
    It involves a lot of counting!

  • @tomslatter  Feb 9

    @dasbinky yes, it is 😀

    I saw a Metallica gig once where the drummer was so ahead of the best he was turning 4/4 into 7/8.

  • @darebear  Feb 9

    I listened to an interview with the guitarist from Polyphia recently where he talked about how the band had had the math-* genres applied to them often, but in reality they almost always play in 4. There's just a lot of syncopation, feel changes, polyrythms, etc

    @dock I've gotten into the habit of turning off the emphasis beats on my metronome so that everything is the same click. I try to stay on tempo, but I play with my ear and things flow easier. Obviously, if the parts modulate tempo itself, this breaks down and it's better to turn off the click and do everything by feel.

  • @wrenarcher  Feb 9

    @dasbinky "Is alternating bars of 31 and 33/8 just intentionally coming in a little early once every four bars?"

    I think this is what happens to me and is a better way than the pretentious comment I made earlier. Sometimes it's adding a couple of beats of 2/4 just to kinda let myself get my steps in place before I jump back on the train. Sometimes it's three beats because I do a stutter step... you kinda like Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith used to do. 😀

  • @headfirstonly  Feb 9

    There are odd time signatures such as 7/8, 11/8 or 15/16 which I use every now and again, because prog rock. But then there are non-dyadic time signatures, which have yet to make it into popular DAWs like Ableton...

  • @paulh1237  Feb 9

    I am constantly surprised by the time signatures that show up in my songs, I tend to just write riffs and they move on when they feel like they naturally come to an end. If I *do* think about time signatures, I generally actually think in terms of 4/4 plus or minus something - because I think that's how a listener is likely to hear it. So - for example, I always think 7/8 sounds quite frantic and rushed because even though the tempo stays the same, we're getting back to the first beat 1/8 earlier than expected. (I think there are quite a few examples here:

    Which actually makes understanding more complex stuff like what @alonetogether is talking about really hard to follow, I demand a song be posted as an example aha!

    I do a similar thing to you @darebear - I always set my songs to 1/4 as a default in Reaper, because that way there is no emphasis on a particular time sig and I can ramble away as I want aha.

  • @alonetogether  Feb 9

    @paulh1237 Im working on something but i dunno if it'll be done for fawm! But if you're interested here's a click track for π²/√2 -
    it's a little too slow for me and im more interested in non-static time signatures but its still pretty interesting in and of itself

    @dock there's so much mathematical beauty in music! standard western music theory is only a small bit of music but even in it there's a lot I appreciate (i really like scales as a sort of 12C8 pattern of frequencies, especially how a proper scale defies simple mathematical scaling!) but ive always felt time signatures to be a little bit boring? There's so many more ways to count than the same clumps of 4. How does a sequence of prime measures compare to a sequence of fibonocci measures? What does a negative beat length even mean?

    All of this is to say there's a lot of ways to express things!

  • @erikleppen Feb 9

    Reading a bit about things like 4/6, I fail to see any difference between 4/6 and 4/8 at another tempo. I believe the 2 core defining factors of a rhythm is the number of "counts" (beats) in a "rhythmic unit" (bar/measure) and how fast you count (tempo). How you call each count, doesn't really change anything, using 2, 4, 8 etc as denominators just makes things easier to notate.

    On the topic of the more "normal" #odd-time-signature (remember to use the tag in the relevant songs!), I tend to like 5-based rhythms more and more, after using them now-and-then. I often end up on odd time signatures if I have a small riff that just happens to return to some kind of downbeat 5 or 7 or 10 or 11 etc. steps after the first. I once had a lyric where 4/4 felt too hasty and 6/4 felt too slow, so I made it 5/4.

    I once read that essentially all rhythms are combinations of 2 and 3 (or even 2 and 1), because for any larger number of beats, our brains involuntarily hear a finer division. For example 5 can be seen as 2 + 2 + 1 or 2 + 1 + 2 etc. depending on where the accents lie. So it can be a fun challenge to pick some random 1s and 2s and see if you can make a rhythm for that. Even 2 + 1 + 2 + 1 + 2 can be an odd time signature, even though it sums to 8 😀

  • @alonetogether  Feb 9

    @erikleppen thats pretty much true. the type of note that makes up the beat is completely arbitrary! quarter notes played in 240 bpm sound the same as eight notes in 120 bpm. thats actually how i constructed the √2th note rhythm. place the notes in 120 bpm and then change tempo to about 42.42 bpm to make it equivalent.

  • @jcameron Feb 9

    Pi^2 / root2? Doesn't sound very rational to me 😀

    As far as I can tell, 4/6 would be a bar of 4 crotchet triplets. You wouldn't write in something like that unless you wanted to get serious with your cross-rhythms, otherwise it would just end up sounding like 4/4. But you'd probably end up with something like a persistent hemiola or a 4/4 against 12/8 pattern anyway.

    On the subject of odd (rather than outright weird) time signatures, I love a good 5/4 or 7/8 rhythm when it shows up in a song. I've written whole songs in these signatures, but I'll chop and change them when it fits the rhythm of the song. I wrote a non-FAWM song last year that was in 4/4 everywhere except for one 11/8 bar in the verse, because the vocals just fell out that way. And I wrote a song for FAWM a few years ago with some sections that were deliberately made to sound as if they had wacky time signatures but that was in fact in straight 4/4 throughout.

    And yes, the line between a syncopated straight rhythm and alternating odd time signatures is pretty blurry. There's that old YouTube video of the guy beatboxing along to a Dream Theater song and holding up flash cards with the time signatures on, but I suspect he's over-egging it a bit ... alternating bars of 5/16 and 7/16 is probably better described as a syncopated 3/4.

  • @pifie Feb 10

    I have one in 9/8 in triplets... is that enough?

    ... or am I counting it wrong?

  • @fuzzy  Feb 10

    Here's an example of a tune of mine with a couple of different time sigs, if you're interested.
    "The Coffee Table Of Destiny".

  • @jwhanberry  Feb 12

    I prefer to subdivide in 2's and 3's. 1's tend to glom onto whatever's next to them. 2's and 3's make it easy to lay out permutations. 5/4 is 2+3 or 3+2. 7/4 can be 2+2+3, 2+3+2 or 3+2+2, etc.

    Speaking of 7/4, here's one I just updated the demo on. It was from a skirmish but needed cleanup. Called "It's Cold Outside"

  • @elainedimasi  Feb 12

    A hundred years ago folks were doing sqrt(2) time by cutting their own player piano rolls .. setting a 45 degree drafting angle across the paper and punching their notes. It's my impression that there's a pretty cool world out there of player piano rolls that are almost humanly unplayable.

  • @nadine Feb 12

    I love listening to songs in 13/4, 7/8 and 7/16 (yes I listen to prog metal!) but I am not able to write these. Some weeks ago I tried to understand polyrythm but I did not succeed in writing bass and drums. Do you feel this rhythms while writing or is it all calculations?

  • @radioovermoscow Feb 12

    I have a habit of writing not so much in weird time signatures themselves, but having extra beats and bars pop in where they shouldn't. I think it's from years back - early FAWMS - where I'd literally programme in awkward structures on the drums first, then write around them - I don't really do that anymore, plenty of ideas in my sack to choose from, but it made for some intriguing twists in what would have otherwise been bog-standard songs.

  • @jcameron Feb 12

    One common trick for writing 5 in a bar is just to lengthen one of the beats. I wrote a song in 5/4 a few years back where the main riff would have been 1, 2-and-a 3, 4 with a triplet on the 2nd beat, except that I held the 3rd note for 2 beats so it was 1, 2-and-a (3 4), 5. The same happened on the vocal line, where "A tiny slinky crea-ture / Whose main distinguishing fea-ture" (it was quite a silly song) had the first syllable of "creature" and "feature" held for 2 beats, again making 4 into 5.

    Another possibility for 5 in a bar is to syncopate the first 3 beats so the rhythm goes ONE-and two-AND three-and FOUR-and FIVE-and: the iconic Mission:Impossible theme (not U2's mangling of it into a straight 4) does that.

    7/8 groups most naturally into 2+2+3. Say "heavy metal sausages" fast and repeatedly with no break between the words, and you've got it.

    Or you can take a looped backing track and shorten it by some fraction of a beat. That's how the theme from The Terminator ended up in 13/16: the composer was using a 1980s analogue deck and accidentally chopped a bit off the loop and then ran with it.

  • @tomslatter  Feb 12

    @nadine I'm a prog metal fan too!

    I've got to the point where I can feel prog style grooves very naturally, even the weirder ones.

    Took a lot of practice though.

  • @davidbreslin101  Feb 12

    I do a couple of tracks in irregular time signatures most FAWMs- I'm that kind of music nerd. So far this year, just a basic 5/4, though I had some fun with cross-rhythms.

    I need a regular groove, though- can't get it to flow well when the time signature is constantly changing. So, more Ravel than Stravinsky. I'm not knocking that approach though- there's some fantastic Balkans folk music where it seems no two bars are the same length. The closest I ever got to that was a song using a cycle of 18 beats grouped 7/8 + 7/8 + 2/4, but it had a repeating riff to hold it all together.

  • @lowhum Feb 12

    I came up upon this piece of software and it blew my mind:
    You can divide a measure into any number and include your own samples. These guys even write all kinds of academic papers about this and that and the soft is free for mac and windows. Really nerdy, but fascinating and usable at the same time. They have also some other pretty far out apps that play with microtonalities and different intonations.

  • @rickatfulcrum  Feb 13

    @elainedimasi maybe you might be thinking of Conlon Nancarrow here? Editing piano rolls as you describe (and in other ways you didn't) was his jam.

    I'm not afraid of time signatures — prog rock was my first real musical love and has been the most abiding. The thing I'm working on now, that is taking me all week and for which I still have not written lyrics, seems to be descending from 13 to 11 to 9 to 7, with very brief stops (maybe) at the integers in between. Who knows where it will go from there...

    But I've also written stuff where the compound time changes from measure to measure, somewhat in the vein of Hatfield And The North or Egg. For me it's a question of where the phrase feels like it wants to go and where the accents get placed.

  • @jwhanberry  Feb 16

    Everything I've done this FAWM is in odd meter. Here's from this Sunday's skirmish. It's in 9/8 divided 3+2+4.
    "Nine Times Valentine"

  • @sph  Feb 16

    @lowhum that software looks awesome! Instant 90s King Crimson!
    I think is related to that. I first heard those eucledian beats in Imogen Heaps Box of tricks (
    Time to do strange things - Thanks for the inspiration!

  • @davidbreslin101  Feb 27

    @jcameron - You got me thinking about 7/8, and I came up with a piano track using a slightly different grouping of beats. The accompaniment strikes chords on beats 1, 3, 5 and 6, making a kind of 2+3+2 groove. It is very, very unstable - I had to use very precise cross-rhythms in the melody to prevent the groove from dying on me.

    @jwhanberry - just been enjoying your take on irregular 9/8! I used that for my closing track a couple of FAWMs ago- it's fun to play in.

  • @tomslatter  Feb 27

    I wrote a couple in 4/4 this year.

    Really weird time signature to play with. It's all square and neat and strange.

  • @davidbreslin101  Feb 27

    @tomslatter - whoa, far out man!

    Joking aside, you can get some wierd arrangements of accented beats out of even the most ordinary time signatures.

  • @jwhanberry  Mar 1

    What a FAWM it was. I wrote all 22 of my songs in unusual meters. 5, 7, 9, 10, 11 and 13. Some are not songs so much as grooves but at least some will get developed more.

  • @silenceinthetemple Mar 1

    FAWM for me this year was a lot of playing with time signatures. I've been having a lot of fun challenging myself to use them to help tell a story in the music itself. I think only a few of the songs I wrote are in 4/4 all the way through. It's really interesting and difficult, but once you learn to count the right amount of beats in your head it gets really fun seeing what the weirdly shaped space can help you come up with.

    And programming drums for something like 9/8 is a cool challenge. Also been using 5/8, 6/4, 3/4, 7/8, 10/8... I even did a little bit of polymeter. Glad to see others are having fun with this stuff too! For some reason it's been a really great songwriting tool for me lately.

  • @radiobenedetto  Mar 1

    Not THAT odd but I wrote a song in 6/8 this year and it actually contributed to the whole concept of the song as it it gave it a kind of carnival carosel feel which led to the Title and whole lyrical concept. I think this was a good case of not writing in a less popular time sig for the sake of it. Really worked for the song:

  • @lowhum Mar 1

    This might count

  • @journeyman Mar 1

    i worked in 5/4 for the first time this year, took me a couple tries to wrap my head around it. the first one was quite basic, but the second track was one of my favorite things i made. i intend to flesh it out to a full song

  • @seppo Mar 3

    I made one 7/8 song and daaamn it was hard. Normally I can roll around a note and always feel where I'm going and fluidly come back in right spot.
    This one it took all my attention just not to try to keep on board.

  • @oddbod  Mar 4

    If someone can figure out what this is then please let me know -

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