Jump to content

Rhythmical structures in music.

Recommended Posts

There's so many options to structure in writing music or melody.  From my own experience having scribbled down hundreds by now over the years I always wait for that moment when the tune or rhythm tells me how I will begin a piece; maybe 4/4 or perhaps cut time [2/2] time.  Of course for jigs and like 6/8 is oft used in folk music as well.

Then there's various other options, and some rarely used or met with on some music at least; I am thinking of the strange 5/4 beats to rhythm, and that one extra note in bar that makes it surprisingly different in affect.

I wonder what is the most unusual structure to use, or that you come across, for all the rest of you out there in 'free reed' land? I suppose they all represent a challenge, to  a degree,  depending on how they are presented on the page.

For those that do not read music - don't worry; you will have all that rhythm built in as well a part of your instinct.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

At a concertina weekend many years ago I led a workshop where we did a suite of Greek tunes in 7/8.

Also many years ago, I used to play for a women's north-west morris side. When the dancers were taking a long while working out a dance, the musicians, to avoid boredom, would start to twiddle the Spanish Lady tune (As I walked out through Dublin City, etc) in a variety of rhythms, including 7/8. I have subsequently also made it into polka, schottische, strathspey, waltz, hambo, mazurka, jig and "sixteenth-note" polska, though not all with equal success.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

7/8 gives a very cool forward momentum to a song.

Blondie “heart of glass” is a good example. Most people don’t notice it. But it just gives the whole thing a “push”. 

you will also come across more 7/4 or 4/4+ 3/4 than you think you would if you actually listen and count it out. Even in “normal” music.

Most often it happens to follow a vocal melody line.  Or to clip the end of a passage to “get back to the hook”

the down side is, depending on who you might hear playing it. A lot of times, they are played wrong and made into 4/4.  The inconvenient truth is. There are lots of players out there that don’t or can’t count. And as a result just can not fathom anything outside of 4/4 ( 6/8 they count as 2 beats).


Edited by seanc
Link to comment
Share on other sites

When playing in one of these less common time signatures it’s usually helpful to listen fir the way I which the main beats are divided with a bar.  For example 7/8 often has beats grouped 3/2/2 so you would count it 1-2-3,1-2,1-2. Theres are plenty of others, in the UK there are native tunes in 3/2, and 9/8. European dance music commonly has 3/8 bourees 5/4 waltz (counted 1-2-3,1-2) 8/4 waltz counted 1-2-3,1-2-3,1-2. All part of life’s rich musical tapestry!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The polska (and the family of related tunes and rhythms from across Scandinavia) - frequently written as 3/4, but that is only a convenience for notating tunes that can have

  • short first beat
  • short third beat
  • stretched first, second and/or third beat
  • any combination of the above
  • straight even beats
Edited by SteveS
Link to comment
Share on other sites

12 hours ago, SIMON GABRIELOW said:

Has there ever been half a beat? Or similar? I have heard of 1/4 time!!?

it happens all the time. But, generally, ime it is going to be tacked on to the previous measure. So a 4/4 becomes a 5/4. A 6/8 becomes a 9/8 etc. I think it is far too confusing and choppy to count as “1” or “1&”. 

as for your question about 5/4.. there are a lot of ways to tackle that. As Theo mentioned a lot of people will chop up and count as 2+3, or 3+2.  Completely valid. And a done quite a lot. the issue with this can be that everybody needs to be counting it the same way. As the “1” always tends to be accented. So, depending on the music you end up with accents on one and three, one and four, or worse as people are counting differently, one, three AND 4.


two other ways to handle this, that tend to be more common is to count it as 5. With the accents being 1 and 2&. This tends to sound more “normal” and intuitive. Example “take 5” also mission impossible (accent 1, 2&, 4,5).

Or it can really smoothed out to where many people count or perceive it as 4 by making it into 10/8 (example Grateful Dead “playin in the band” the whole song is in 5/4- 10/8 but the accents change).


don’t be intimidated or thrown by it. Just get a good metronome. Put it on the desired time and just practice and count until you’ve internalized it. Once you have you really caught on you start hearing it and recognizing it everywhere. 



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...