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  • Writer's pictureJon Nolan

What Are Odd Meters?

Odd meters, also known as irregular meters or asymmetrical meters, refer to time signatures that have an unconventional or unusual number of beats per measure.


Unlike the more common time signatures such as 2/4, 3/4, or 4/4, odd meters have an irregular grouping of beats that deviate from the typical sense of meter and can create unique rhythmic patterns.



Here are a few examples of odd meters:




5/4: This time signature has five beats per measure. It is often counted as "1-2-3-4-5" or "1-2-3, 4-5" and can be heard in songs like "Take Five" by Dave Brubeck or the "Mission Impossible" theme.






7/8: In this time signature, there are seven beats per measure. It can be counted as "1-2-3, 4-5-6-7" or "1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2." An example of a song in 7/8 is "Tom Sawyer" by Rush.







11/8: In 11/8 time, there are eleven beats per measure. It can be counted as "1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2." Although the song is primarily in 4/4 time, the bridge section of The Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun" features a sequence of rhythms in 11/8. The "Sun, Sun, Sun" part features a three note pickup with two measures of 3/8 and one measure of 5/8 before switching back to 4/4.




Odd meters can be found in various musical genres, including jazz, progressive rock, folk, and world music. They add complexity, tension, and a distinct rhythmic character to a piece.


Composers and musicians use odd meters to create unique and unexpected rhythmic patterns, challenging listeners' expectations and creating a sense of musical adventure.


Performing music in odd meters requires attentive counting, internalization of the rhythmic structure, and an understanding of how the beats are grouped within the measure. It may take some practice and familiarity to feel comfortable and develop a natural sense of phrasing and groove in odd meters.

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