Practice Suggestions for Learning How to Play in Odd Meter Time Signatures of 5/4 and 7/4
If most of the music you have played and listened to is in time signatures of 4/4, 3/4, or 6/8, then playing in odd meters will be a very different experience. It takes some practice to feel the placement of the downbeat, but like everything else in music, with good practice and accurate repetition, you can learn to play music in odd meters.
Some methods will teach you to count every beat of the measure in odd meter time, so in 7/4 time, you would count “one two three four five six seven” for every measure. Other methods subdivide each measure into beat groupings, so you might count “one two one two one two three” for each measure of 7/4.
Both methods have pros and cons. Counting every beat is good because you immediately know where you are in the measure at all times. However, it has a drawback in that the word “seven” has two syllables which adds another beat to the measure. Also, counting seven numbers is a bit tedious.
Subdividing each measure can be confusing at first because you are counting the number “one” three times in a measure of 7/4 time. However, odd meter measures can be broken down into patterns of 2 or 3 beats, and counting these subdivisions of the measure will help you feel the flow of the beat and the rhythms. I recommend using this method of counting odd meters. Read the odd meter introduction to learn how to subdivide the measure in odd meter.
The 5/4 time signature Patterns 1901 through 1905 feature beat groupings of 2 + 3, so you should count “one two one two three” for each measure.
Patterns 1906 through 1911 feature beat grouping of 3 + 2, so you should count “one two three one two” for each measure.
The 7/4 time signature Patterns 1912 through 1914 have beat groupings of 2 + 2 + 3, so you should count “one two one two one two three” for each measure.
Patterns 1915 through 1918 have beat groupings of 3 + 2 + 2, so you should count “one two three one two one two” for each measure.
Patterns 1919 through 1921 have beat groupings of 2 + 3 + 2, so you should count “one two one two three one two” for each measure.
When learning new music in 5/4 or 7/4 time, analyze each measure and find the beat groupings. It is helpful to mark the music to indicate the groupings so you can count it accurately.
For more practice tips and suggestions, visit the Practice page.
Lesson 19 Introduction - learn about odd meter time signatures of 5/4 and 7/4