How do you properly count an odd time signature

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by SteveDendura, Nov 4, 2008.

  1. SteveDendura

    SteveDendura SS.org Regular

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    Ok, so I don't have any problem playing an odd time, what I do occasionally have the problem with is counting it out vocally while playing, and especially explaining it to my bandmates.

    I only count from one to four. I never say five, six, or seven etc. especailly because Sev-en is two syllables! That tends to screw up the count.

    I'll give some of my examples. (the "=" sign means accent that note).

    For 9/8 I count = 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1, = 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1, = 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1. So, I count the 8th and 9th note as "and 1". I say one as the 5th note, then begin the next bar. (you say "one" twice). This works perfectly for me.

    5/4 is = 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, = 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, etc.. (say "one" twice)

    7/8 is = 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, = 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, (I just subtract the last "and", say "four, one, one")

    13/16 is = 1 e and uh, 2 e and uh, 3 e and uh, 4, = 1 e and uh, 2 e and uh, 3 e and uh, 4. (right after 4 start with 1).

    So, this is how I do it....but it confuses other people. Even when I do it along with the metronome, so, am I right? This seems so easy to me. Let me know what you think. Try it to a metronome.
     
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  2. TonalArchitect

    TonalArchitect Augmented Chords!

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    If you want to count numbers with more than one syllable, shorten the word. For example twelve eight would be (counting each eighth note)

    one, two, three, four, five, six, sev', eight, nine, ten, 'lev', twelve.

    However, you can count with any syllable you want; it doesn't actually matter. For example, eighth notes in 4/4 could be counted "ta-co, ta-co, ta-co, ta-co." or "turkey."

    I would actually not recommend counting with numbers in odd time signatures like that. Indian musicians don't; why should you?

    For example (I know we're not really talking subdivisions too much, but still), they would count sixteenth notes as "ta, ka, di, mi," without numbering the particular pulse from which the notes are subdivided. Doing so would be inconvenient with their crazy rhythmic cycles that can equate to stuff like 29/4 (bhuvana tala).

    Internalizing the beat and counting silently are the eventual destination. Tomas Haake of Meshuggah, for example, doesn't EVER count (there's a crappy video of an interview with him on youtube where he says, and I quote, "... But I never, ever count."

    So your method is cool if it works. In my opinion, counting is only worthwhile when one needs to get the feel of a particular time signature, subdivision, or passage of music, so tell your bandmates not to get too hung up on it.
     
  3. Metal Ken

    Metal Ken Hates the Air Contributor

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    When i was fucking around learning Fountainhead from Spiral Architect, the intro is in 11/16... i counted it 1-2-3-4-5, 1-2-3-4-5-6. I generally divide up a count something like that, along with the riff so i know where the change goes, etc.
     
  4. SteveDendura

    SteveDendura SS.org Regular

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    Dude, as soon as I read that, I remembered trying to learn konokol, from a John McLaughlin video. You've just inspired me to borrow that video again and learn from it. See, my problem is trying to play and count out loud at the same time. It's been like 8 months or so since I had that video. takita takita giggity giggity.

    The way I count does work for me, because I can always find the beginning, but konokol would help me vocalize it as I play it. Brilliant.

    Cool, I guess I would normally count it similarly but like, = 1 e and uh 2, = 1 e and uh 2 e.:yesway:

    Does it have any triplets in it though? Another reason I posted this is because sometimes the riff I'm trying to count may have triplets or begin on an up beat, so I can't always start on 1, or if there are scattered triplets, I may not count them right. Actually that konokol works great for vocalizing the EXACT pattern of your rythmn. :agreed:
     
  5. All_¥our_Bass

    All_¥our_Bass Deathly Chuuni

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    I usally break up odd time sigs into groups of 2,3,4 or 5. I might count something differently depending on accents as well.

    Examples.
    13/8 = 3 + 3 + 3 + 4 or 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 3 or 5 + 5 + 3
    9/8 3 + 3 + 3 or 5 + 4 or 4 + 5 or 2 + 2 + 2 + 3

    Thgese grouping may also be mixed, matched and shuffled depending on accents, like I laready mentioned.
    Here's a 13/8 bass riff I wrote a while back.

    Code:
     
    V = accent
    13/8 time
    F|----------------------------|
    C|-V-----V-------V-----V------|
    G|-0-1-0-0-5-6-5-0-3-0-0-8-10-|
    D|----------------------------|
       3  +  4   +   3  +  3
    
     
  6. SteveDendura

    SteveDendura SS.org Regular

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    I would probably count by dividing it into 7/8 followed by 6/8.
    Like this; 1 and 2 AND 3 and 4, 1 and 2 AND 3 and. It's tricky either way to try and play it, tap your foot, and say it out loud while doing it.
     
  7. Unknown Doodl3.2

    Unknown Doodl3.2 look at each other..

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    I just usually feel it and than get a good count of the beat. So in the case of weird time signatures like 11/16 pr something I'd just count 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 and really putting an accent on the 1 so I can really feel it. if its at a high tempo and its too fast to count Ill feel the eight notes and only think of the final beat as a 16th note. The cool thing about this is that you can set rhythms for yourself just by feeling time and you won't even have added any notes or "beats" to anything yet(in the case of composition). For example, 7/8 can be counted like this 1 2 1 2 1 2 3 or 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 or even 1 2 3 1 2 3 4...
     
  8. SteveDendura

    SteveDendura SS.org Regular

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    Yes, I can see that working for some people. Especially by counting a "1" wherever there is an accented note. That greatly helps. :yesway:

    I still think I've got the best way for "counting", aside from how difficult it is for me to vocalize it, as I play. (That's where konokol comes in.:lol:) I count any time with 8's with "and"s and any time with 16ths with "e and uh"s. So if an accent is on an "and" before the 3rd quarter note (which is common is 6/8), I know it's on an upbeat. All I'm getting at is, I think the way I'm doing it is a really good way to teach sychronization, when tryin' to get several people playing the same thing.:agreed:
     
  9. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    Wow, somebody else knows about Spiral Architect. Cloud Constructor is a badass song.

    Additive rhythms are easy, just count everything in twos and threes. For instance, 12 can be 222222, 3333, 33222, 23232, or whatever. Emphasis can fall on weak beats to create a weird effect, like in the Apocalype part in Genesis' Supper's ready (123121212, here, the last note of the division is accented). If you have no particular emphasis, you get divisive rhythms.
     
  10. All_¥our_Bass

    All_¥our_Bass Deathly Chuuni

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    It differs from person to person and depends on the accents, but as long as it works, that's all that matters.
     
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  11. telecaster90

    telecaster90 Smokestack Lightning Contributor

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    I usually count things in twos and threes. I could 5/8 either like 1 2 1 2 3 or 1 2 3 1 2 depending on which beats are accented.
     
  12. SteveDendura

    SteveDendura SS.org Regular

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    Thank you all for your posts. This is interesting, because in the end it looks like we all do it the same way. We all break it down piece by piece, so we know where the beginning and end are and where each accent falls.
     
  13. SnowfaLL

    SnowfaLL SS.org Regular

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    Compound subdivision is your friend =]
     

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