Magazine article Guitar Player

Exploring Odd Meters

Magazine article Guitar Player

Exploring Odd Meters

Article excerpt

MOST OF US ARE RHYTHMICALLY starved, surviving on a steady diet of just three meters: 4/4, 3/4, and the delightfully churning 12/8. But there's more to life than these three patterns, and it's fun to branch out and explore meters based on less common beat groupings, such as 5 and 7.

Meters are categorized as perfect or imperfect. Perfect meters can be divided into equal halves or thirds. Imperfect meters--better known as odd meters--cannot be evenly divided by 2 or 3.

Perhaps the best known odd meter is 5/4. (Kudos to alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, who wrote "Take Five," the jazz classic popularized by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, for bringing 5/4 to the world's attention.) When playing in 5/4, it's often helpful to subdivide the meter's five quarter-notes into groupings of 2 and 3. As Ex. 1 illustrates, you can play 5/4 as a 3+2 or 2+3 grouping. In this example, the paired quarter-notes (beats four and five in bar 1, and beats one and two in bar 2) are further parsed into eighth-notes to create a tippling effect.

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Try playing this repeating passage using a hybrid pick-and-fingers technique. As you move from bar 1 to bar 2, arch your fretting fingers so the open-E string can ring freely and provide sonic cover for the position shift. Tip: In bar 2, grab each tenth interval as a unit and simply arpeggiate the first two grips.

Another cool odd meter is 7/8. Subdividing the seven eighth-notes into groups of 2 and 3 yields three patterns: 2 + 2 + 3, 3 + 2 + 2, and 2 + 3 + 2. …

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