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Odd Time Signatures

Discussion in 'Info, Requests, etc.' started by Ryan Rubinstein, Nov 11, 2020.

  1. Guys,
    does anyone remember, where in masterclasses Mike covers Odd Time Signatures, all those 7/8,6/8,etc?
    Thanks in advance.
  2. I would imagine it's either in rhythm and percussion or in jazz. What did you want to review?
  3. Thanks for your respond ,Mike! Just went thru "Rhythm n Perc" class - its not there; unless its not in last 40min (where it's usually more of the chat/rant stuff). Will look over Jazz class, I have it, but didn't watch it yet.

    What I wanted to find is where you touch the subject of odd meters like 7/8 and "when do you use them and why do you use them" (btw, it might be in the Action class...hmm..)

    P.S. By the way, I still have your vodka, that I brought last year.
  4. If for no other reason than their relative scarceness, the function of odd meters is to add a sort-of positive anxiety to the listener's experience as their expectations for rhythmic grouping are frustrated. The lope of odd meters can add a sense of urgency or tension - though this is closely tied to how comfortable you make the groupings, and what efforts you do to make the odd meters more "palatable." 5/4 can feel very natural, quickly, but it can also be made to feel very disorienting and frustrating. When I did two odd meter tunes on my first album, I worked hard to make them feel comfortable, and sort-of hide the fact of the meters. Experimentation is key, and if you usually write in, say, 4/4, chances are your natural phrasing will fit poorly in an odd meter and you'll have to learn to adjust so that things don't feel cheated short or held too long to satisfy the meter. It's actually a lot of fun.
  5. #5 Ryan Rubinstein, Nov 13, 2020
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 13, 2020
    It's exactly for that reason. I think in 4/4 all the time and even if the meter "suppose to be" 3/4 or 6/4 , my mind still puts it in the 4/4 form making notes to fit as triplets; but then, when working with other musicians they usually say: "Dude. This is 3/4 song. (or 12/8 for example)". But I still feel natural for my ear to fit it in the 4/4 click, I would just use a different tempo. As I wasn't classically trained, that sort of became a habit. BUT:

    Having said that, I stumbled across things like "Action scenes often done in 7/8 or 6/8 meter" when studying, so:
    a) I would like to force my ear to hear and count in 6/8, particularly when analysing other composer's work;
    b) to understand more about when and how to choose them, other than "it creates the unfinished feel" as its a more of the guideline, rather then mandatory, right?
    c) Mike, I think you've covered it slightly in "action scenes", but where can I find more?
  6. Allow me to elaborate on "a)":
    Let me give you an example.
    I was okay doing that (fitting everything in 4/4, unless its obvious melody) up until I started hearing cues from the scenes like these:
    My mind clashes when I hear cues like this one:

    as to WHY is it written like this? (possible explanation would be - the cut reductions of the scene which happened After music was done, so composer was forced to add pieces of bars) , WHAT original meter is it? 5/8 to 6/8, but its so "unnatural" yet works in the scene. Sometimes you have to do what's best for the scene.
    WHY should I choose this meter,When and How, "what to know"?

    Thank you in advance!
  7. Deliberately frustrated meters have some advantages in today's clumsily edited constant action scenes, especially because composers aren't working to locked picture like they did for most of the last 100 years, so now everything and anything can change at any time. And if the meter isn't super locked in, you can drop an 8th or a beat and nobody will really notice. Plus the structure of this offering is quasi-filler anyway, so it's not the anchor holding the scene together in the sort of beautiful balletic dance of an "Asteroid Field" or "Here they Come" queue from one of the Star Wars films, for example.

    I don't think this particular mixed meter example is that cool, but that's personal. It seems forced, and I'm sort of giving him the benefit of the doubt that it's for practical reasons. But it just might be that he was bored doing it straight. Just like there are no truly wrong things or right things to do, there really aren't any right or wrong justifications. There are merely justifications or contexts which most people would agree with or not.

    So in short, this particular mixed meter example makes my brain crash too. I just don't find it that fun and the payoff isn't worth it. Remember, good work is hard to do even when you're good.
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  8. #8 Ryan Rubinstein, Nov 13, 2020
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2020
    Thank you for your answer!
    It's more about situations, where I hear cues like this and think: "Wait a minute, is that suppose to be this way?..."
    And, consequently, I think - I need to learn this. It'll definitely become handy.
    Especially with the action scenes today, as you mentioned, exactly because they edited to last minute before release goddamit.
    So where I can look for more info?
    Here is another one:

    Like, here tempo has changed 3 times, but even within those pieces, its not a steady meter. Was it forced to be this way because of the cut? He doesn't even let melody to play full theme.
    I can only justify that as "because of the edit cuts" he had to. OR there is a "Special" techniques to do that? Like for example, the piece from 01.00 made with obvious theme/melody - but its not "round" (like in 4/4)- its like it has its way, then thrown few beats, then doubled down half way, then back again - im thinking WTH?)

    Overall - Its all interesting, I'm curious to learn how to do it on demand, as adding tools to your set wasn't ever wrong.
  9. #9 Rohann van Rensburg, Nov 17, 2020
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2020
    I can't give much answer in regard to cues and the nuances present -- writing to a particular scene and the changes that may warrant, etc.

    That said, if one wants to learn about odd time signatures, I'd recommend looking to genres that are famous for it (i.e. prog rock). I suppose it depends what the end goal is -- are you looking to write something that feels like it's in 7/8, or are you looking to write in odd time signatures that feel comfortable? I find it feels more difficult to sound coherent in 5/8 than in 7/8, but it can certainly be done. I think many people (particularly in the prog-ish vein) like to write in obscure time signatures for the hell of it, but I personally find the masters of the craft tend to be able to disguise what they're doing and lead non-musician listeners all the same which is far more interesting, in my opinion anyway.

    A rather famous and simple example. My suspicion is that it works well here because the melody is slow and takes place over 4 bars of 5/8 (4 being more "familiar" to most ears):

    In terms of the latter goal, a lot has to do with the basic principle Mike talks about: giving people something to latch onto. The time signature of piano and drums together in this song are actually rather obscure but it doesn't feel that way, largely because the vocals pull it together into a cohesive melody:

    It can also be used to create an uncomfortable, anxiety-inducing jarring effect (but notice this is done for effect -- it doesn't last the whole song, as the effect would be diminished). Brilliantly goes from 6 into a jarring 5 that slowly gets stretched into a more comfortable 5-5-5-6 and then back into 6:

    And somehow it's just embedded into certain cultures. How on earth someone would be naturally inclined to feel music this way is beyond me but it's really interesting:

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