Odd time signatures

List of musical works in unusual time signatures

Listed here are musical compositions or pieces in Western music that have unusual time signatures. "Unusual" is here defined to be

any time signature other than simple time signatures with top numerals of 2, 3, or 4 and bottom numerals of 2, 4, or 8, and compound time signatures with top numerals of 6, 9, or 12 and bottom numerals 4, 8, or 16.

The conventions of musical notation typically allow for more than one written representation of a particular piece. The chosen time signature largely depends upon musical context, personal taste of the composer or transcriber, and the graphic layout on the written page .

These examples are grouped by time signature, and listed alphabetically by title.

⅔/4

Partially in ⅔/4

4/3/2

Partially in 4/3/2

1/2

Partially in 1/2

  • Appalachian Spring, by Aaron Copland. Third bar of rehearsal 46 and third bar of rehearsal 48 are in 1/2.

3/32

  • "Lilliputsche Chaconne", from Intrada, nebst burlesquer Suite, for two violins (the so-called "Gulliver Suite") by Georg Philipp Telemann.

5/1, 5/2, 5/4, or 5/8

  • "Allegro con grazia", second movement of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 in B minor, "Pathétique", op. 74 (5/4).
  • "Amor con fortuna", villancico by Juan de Encina (₵5/1, with measures in 5/2).
  • "Bulgarian Rhythm (2)", from Mikrokosmos (no. 115), by Béla Bartók.
  • "Come, stain your cheeks with nut or berry", the last movement of Gypsy's Glee (1796), by William Reeve (5/4).
  • "Con amores, mi madre", villancico by Juan de Anchieta (5/1).
  • "De ser mal casada", villancico by Diego Fernández (5/2).
  • "Do What You Like", by Ginger Baker.
  • "Dos ánades, madre", villancico by Juan de Anchieta (5/1).
  • "15 Step" and "Morning Bell" by Radiohead (5/4).
  • Fugue 20 (Allegretto), from 36 Fugues for Piano by Anton Reicha.
  • "Here Come The Bastards", by Primus (5/4).
  • "Hold Fast Hope" by Thrice (5/4).
  • Impromptu, op. 32, no. 4 (Andantino), by Charles Valentin Alkan.
  • Impromptu, op. 32, no. 5 (Allegretto), by Charles Valentin Alkan.
  • Impromptu, op. 32, no. 6 (Vivace), by Charles Valentin Alkan.
  • "In Mixolydian Mode", from Mikrokosmos (no. 48), by Béla Bartók.
  • In Nomine "Trust", by Christopher Tye (5/4).
  • "Lament", second movement of the Double Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra, op. 49, by Gustav Holst (5/4).
  • "Larghetto" (con molta espressione), third movement of Sonata No. 1 in C Minor, op. 4, by Frédéric Chopin (5/4).
  • "Living in the Past" by Jethro Tull (5/4).
  • "Mars, the Bringer of War", first movement of The Planets by Gustav Holst (mainly 5/4 with two episodes of 5/2 in bars 95–109 and 167–71, and a 14-bar coda in 3/4).
  • "Las mis penas madre", villancico by Pedro de Escobar (5/2).
  • "Mission: Impossible Theme" by Lalo Schifrin (5/4).
  • "Pensad ora’n al", anonymous villancico, in the Cancionero Musical de Palacio (1516–20) (C5/2).
  • "Prizrak" (Phantom), no. 4 of the Four Pieces for Piano, op. 3, by Sergei Prokofiev (5/8).
  • "River Man", by Nick Drake (5/4).
  • "Sanctus", from the Missa Paschalis, by Heinrich Isaac.
  • "Se la sorte mi condanna", aria from the opera Arianna (1750), by Andrea Adolfati (5/4).
  • "Serenade", second movement of the Fantasiestücke, op. 5, for string quartet, by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (5/4).
  • "Seven Days", by Sting (5/4).
  • "Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm": no. 3, from Mikrokosmos no. 150, by Béla Bartók.
  • Svadebnii khor i stsena [Свадебный хор и сцена – Nuptial chorus and scene], from act 3 of the opera A Life for the Tsar by Mikhail Glinka (5/4).
  • "Take Five" by Paul Desmond, recorded by The Dave Brubeck Quartet (5/4).
  • "Tan buen ganadico", villancico by Juan de Encina.
  • "Universal Good" (Quartet), from act 1 of Candide, by Leonard Bernstein.
  • "Variation IV: Più mosso", in Part I of The Age of Anxiety: Symphony No. 2 by Leonard Bernstein is in 5/8.
  • "Vicarious" by Tool (5/4).
  • "Viens, gentille dame", tenor aria from act 2 of the opera La Dame blanche (1825), by François-Adrien Boieldieu (5/4).
  • Partially in 5/2, 5/4, 5/8, or 5/16

  • "Allegro calmo senza rigore", first movement of String Quartet No. 2, op. 35 (1945), by Benjamin Britten. Eleventh bar after rehearsal K is in 5/4.
  • "Aria (Cantilena)", first movement of Bachianas Brasileiras no. 5 by Heitor Villa-Lobos. Opening and closing parts predominantly in 5/4, middle section entirely in 5/4.
  • "Ballad of Eldorado", from act 2 of Candide, by Leonard Bernstein. Main verses are in 5/8, turnarounds in 7/8 or 3/4 + 7/8.
  • A Choral Fantasia, op. 51, by Gustav Holst. Bars 23–24 and 199–200 are in 5/4.
  • Canticle III ('Still Falls the Rain'), op. 55, by Benjamin Britten. "Theme", "Variation IV", and "Variation VI" are all in 5/4.
  • Frontispice, for two pianos (five hands), by Maurice Ravel.
  • "Everything's Alright", from Jesus Christ Superstar, by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Mainly in 5/4, except b. 29–32 in 6/4, b. 43–44 in 4/4, and b. 45 and 48 in 3/4.
  • "Four Sticks" by Led Zeppelin. Verses alternate 5/4 and 3/4 passages; choruses are in 3/4.
  • "The Grudge" by Tool. The first bass riff during the intro and the verses is in 5/4.
  • "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, as transcribed by Fujita et al. (5/4).
  • "In the First Pentatonic Major Mode (En el 1er modo pentáfono mayor)", no. 12 from 12 American Preludes for piano (1944) by Alberto Ginastera (bars 16 and 21 in 5/2).
  • Mad scene, act 2, scene 11 from the opera Orlando by George Frideric Handel (5/8).
  • "Molto allegro e appassionato", first movement of Samuel Barber’s String Quartet, op. 11, bars 28, 49, 55, 174, and 180 are in 5/4
  • "Molto adagio" (Adagio for Strings), second movement of Samuel Barber’s String Quartet, op. 11, bars 431, and 60 are in 5/2.
  • "Molto allegro (come prima)", third movement of Samuel Barber’s String Quartet, op. 11, bar 19 is in 5/4.
  • "Los peones de hacienda", from the ballet Estancia by Alberto Ginastera. The four bars preceding rehearsal 66 are in 5/8.
  • Petit Caprice, réconciliation, op. 42, for piano, by Charles Valentin Alkan (5/4).
  • "Promenade", from Pictures at an Exhibition, by Modest Mussorgsky. Each of the five versions mixes 5/4 with other metres, regularly or irregularly: (1) 5/4 alternates with 6/4 for eight bars, then two 6/4s and one pair of 5/4 + 6/4, ending with twelve bars of 6/4; (2) 5/4 alternates regularly with 6/4 throughout (effectively 11/4); (3) regular alternation of 5/4 and 6/4 until the final two bars, which are 5/4 and C; (4) irregular mixture of 5/4, 6/4, and 7/4, with a single 3/4 bar at the end; (5) four pairs of regularly alternating 5/4 and 6/4, then an irregular mixure of 5/4, 6/4, and 7/4 to the end.
  • "Variations on a Ground", third movement of the Double Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra, op. 49, by Gustav Holst (11th and 18th variations in 5/4).
  • "Vivace", third movement of the Harp Concerto, op. 25, by Alberto Ginastera (bar 179 is in 5/16).
  • "Within You Without You" by George Harrison, as transcribed by Fujita et al. (5/4).
  • 6/2

    Partially in 6/2

    • "In the First Pentatonic Major Mode (En el 1er modo pentáfono mayor)", no. 12 from 12 American Preludes for piano (1944) by Alberto Ginastera (bar 23 in 6/2).
    • "Molto adagio" (Adagio for Strings), second movement of Samuel Barber’s String Quartet, op. 11, bars 15 and 26 are in 6/2.

    7/4, 7/8, or 7/16

  • "And The Money Kept Rolling In (and Out)" from "Evita" by Andrew Lloyd Webber (7/8, except for a three-bar introduction in 4/4).
  • "Bulgarian Rhythm (1)" from Béla Bartók's Mikrokosmos (no. 113) (7/4).
  • "Dreaming in Metaphors" by Seal.
  • "(En) El Séptimo Día", by Soda Stereo (7/8).
  • "Estimated Prophet" by the Grateful Dead (7/4).
  • Fugue No. 24, from 36 Fugues for Piano by Anton Reicha (notated in regularly alternating ₵ and 3/4 bars).
  • Impromptu, op. 32, no. 8, for piano, by Charles Valentin Alkan (7/8).
  • "In the First Pentatonic Minor Mode (En el 1er modo pentáfono menor)", no. 5 from 12 American Preludes for piano by Alberto Ginastera (7/8).
  • "Laps in Seven", by Sam Bush (7/4).
  • "Marching Season" by Yanni (7/8).
  • "Mother" by Andy Summers (7/8).
  • "Old Joe Has Gone Fishing" by Benjamin Britten (from the opera Peter Grimes).
  • "Precipitato", last movement of the Piano Sonata No. 7, by Sergei Prokofiev (7/8).
  • "Right Hand Man" by Joan Osborne (7/4).
  • "St. Augustine In Hell" by Sting (7/8).
  • "Sensemayá", for orchestra, by Silvestre Revueltas, is predominantly in 7/8, with occasional interruptions in 7/16 time and a brief 7-bar interlude at rehearsal 23 of 9/8 (3/4+3/8).
  • "7/4 (Shoreline)" by Broken Social Scene (7/4).
  • "Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm" 2, from Béla Bartók's Mikrokosmos (no. 149) (7/4).
  • "Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel (7/4).
  • "State of Mine" by IQ, the closing instrumental from the first part of Subterranea is based around a 7/8 piano arrangement.
  • "Träume" by Cosmic Baby (7/8).
  • "Them Bones" by Alice In Chains (7/8).
  • "Très Animé", third movement of Fantasia, for saxophone, 3 horns, and string orchestra, by Heitor Villa-Lobos. (7/4).
  • "Unsquare Dance" by Dave Brubeck (7/8).
  • "Variation X: Più mosso", in Part I of The Age of Anxiety: Symphony No. 2 by Leonard Bernstein, is notated in regularly alternating ₵ and 3/4 bars, each pair amounting to one 7/4 bar.
  • "Waltz in 7/8" by Yanni (7/8).
  • "Words, Words, Words" (Martin's Laughing Song), from act 2 of Candide, by Leonard Bernstein (7/8).
  • Partially in 7/4 or 7/8

  • "All You Need Is Love" by the Beatles. Verses sung in 7/4.
  • "Allegro calmo senza rigore", first movement of String Quartet No. 2, op. 35 (1945), by Benjamin Britten. Bars 2 and 13 after rehearsal K are in 7/4.
  • "Andante grazioso", third movement of Trio No. 3 for Piano, Violin, and Violoncello, op. 101, by Johannes Brahms. Main (outer) sections in 7/4 (notated as a recurring 3/4 + 2/4 + 2/4), central section in 15/8 with 9/8 turnarounds, eight-bar coda in 9/8.
  • "Anyone Who Had a Heart" by Burt Bacharach, sung by Dionne Warwick - 7/8 turnaround at the end of the bridge, as pointed out to Bacharach by Dionne Warwick. However the song features "5/4, 4/4, to 7/8 and resolving on 5/8 in only eight bars" according to Allmusic.
  • Chichester Psalms by Leonard Bernstein. Most of the first movement of this complex choral and orchestral piece is written in 7/4.
  • A Choral Fantasia, op. 51, by Gustav Holst. Bars 70–98, 179–85, and 201–209 are in 7/4.
  • "Dance on a Volcano" by Genesis (7/8).
  • "Heart of Glass" by Blondie has a break after the chorus in 7/8.
  • "Heaven on Their Minds", from Jesus Christ Superstar, by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Mainly in 4/4, but turnarounds in b. 44–51 and 69–76 are in 7/8.
  • "I Was Brought To My Senses" by Sting. Intro is in 4/4, but the rest is 7/4.
  • "In the House of Tom Bombadil" by Nickel Creek - alternates between 4/4 and 7/8.
  • "Jocko Homo" by Devo is primarily in 7/8, but changes to 4/4 partway through.
  • "Money" by Pink Floyd. Predominantly in 7/4. (may also be represented as one measure of 4/4 followed by a measure of 3/4)
  • Music by John Miles - the "rock" riff section after the initial intro is in 7/4.
  • "Oh, Happy We" from act 1 of Candide by Leonard Bernstein. Verses are in 7/4, turnarounds in 3/4.
  • "Outshined" by Soundgarden. Verses in 7/4.
  • "Los peones de hacienda", from the ballet Estancia by Alberto Ginastera. Bars 27–28 (third and fourth bars following rehearsal 65) are in 7/8.
  • "Presto ruvido", no. 4 of Sechs Bagatellen for wind quintet (1953) by György Ligeti (all in 7/8 except b. 36, 39, and 51, in 3/8, 2/8, and 3/8, respectively).
  • "Promenade", from Pictures at an Exhibition, by Modest Mussorgsky. The last two of five versions mixes 7/4 irregularly with other metres: (4th Promenade) 5/4, 6/4, and 7/4, with a single 3/4 bar at the end; (5th Promenade) four pairs of regularly alternating 5/4 and 6/4, then an irregular mixure of 5/4, 6/4, and 7/4 to the end.
  • "Soul Love", by David Bowie (7/4).
  • "Spoonman" by Soundgarden. Verses in 7/4.
  • "Tattooed Love Boys" by The Pretenders. Verses alternate between 7/4 and 4/4.
  • "2 + 2 = 5" by Radiohead (7/4).
  • "Variations on a Ground", third movement of the Double Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra, op. 49, by Gustav Holst (13th and 17th variations in 7/4).
  • 8/8 (unevenly grouped)

    • "Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm" 4, from Béla Bartók's Mikrokosmos (no. 151), is in 3 + 2 + 3.
    • "Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm" 6, from Béla Bartók's Mikrokosmos (no. 153), is in 3 + 3 + 2.

    8/4

    Partially in 8/4

    • "Allegro calmo senza rigore", first movement of String Quartet No. 2, op. 35 (1945), by Benjamin Britten. Bars 3 and 12 after rehearsal K are in 8/4.
    • A Choral Fantasia, op. 51, by Gustav Holst. Bars 36–69, 142–48, 173–78, and 191–98 are in 8/4.

    9/8 (not ordinary triple-compound)

  • "Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm" 1, from Béla Bartók's Mikrokosmos (no. 148), is in 4 + 2 + 3.
  • "Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm" 5, from Béla Bartók's Mikrokosmos (no. 152), is in 2 + 2 + 2 + 3.
  • Partially in 9/8, 9/4, or 9/2

  • "Apocalypse in 9/8" by Genesis. Penultimate movement of the "Supper's Ready" suite, rhythm section plays a 9/8 riff as 4+3+2, organ solo plays polymetrically over this (sometimes 4/4, sometimes 7/4.)
  • "Blue Rondo a la Turk" by Dave Brubeck is "alternately in 9/8 (2+2+2+3)and 4/4 as described on the record notes to Dave Brubeck's Greatest Hits (1966)."
  • "Blue Rondo à la Turk" (1958) by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, from the album Time Out - Played as 2+2+2+3 and 3+3+3, with some alternating sections of 4/4)
  • "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, as transcribed by Fujita et al.
  • "Los peones de hacienda", from the ballet Estancia by Alberto Ginastera. The refrain, at rehearsal numbers 62, 65, 67, 68, 69+3, and 70 is marked "9/8 (3/4 - 3/8)"; the remainder is variously in 6/8, 3/4, 5/8, and 7/8.
  • "The Start of Something Beautiful" (2005) by Porcupine Tree
  • "Voices" by Dream Theater. Opening riff in 9/8 broken down as 4/4 + 1/8.
  • 10/4, 10/8 or 10/16

  • "Alpha Beta Gaga" by Air. (10/4)
  • Etude, op. 35, no. 12, for piano, by Charles Valentin Alkan. (10/16)
  • "Everything In Its Right Place" by Radiohead. (10/4)
  • "Go to Sleep" by Radiohead. (10/4)
  • "Looks Good (But You Looked Away)", by the Helio Sequence. (10/4)
  • "Nostalgia" by Yanni. (10/8)
  • "Playing in the Band" by The Grateful Dead (notated as 4/4 + 4/4 + 2/4). (10/4)
  • Partially in 10/4, 10/8 or 10/16

    • "Allegro calmo senza rigore", first movement of String Quartet No. 2, op. 35 (1945), by Benjamin Britten. Fourth bar after rehearsal K ("tranquillo, lusingando") is in 10/4.
    • "Mother and Child Divided" (2005) by Porcupine Tree. Partially 10/16.
    • "Solacium", part 3 of "De Elegia Tertia" from Threni, id est Lamentationes Jeremiae Prophetae, by Igor Stravinsky.

    11/4 or 11/8

    13/4 or 13/8

    Partially in 13/4 or 13/8

    15/8

    Partially in 15/8

    • "Andante grazioso", third movement of Trio No. 3 for Piano, Violin, and Violoncello, op. 101, by Johannes Brahms. Central section in 15/8 with 9/8 turnarounds, main (outer) sections in 7/4 (notated as a recurring 3/4 + 2/4 + 2/4), concluding eight-bar coda in 9/8.
    • "A Change of Seasons" by Dream Theater. First verse in 15/8 broken down as 3/4 + 9/8, second verse in 15/8 broken down as 6/8 + 6/8 + 3/8.
    • "Fêtes", no. 2 from Nocturnes, by Claude Debussy.
    • Frontispice, for two pianos (five hands), by Maurice Ravel.
    • "Tubular Bells" by Mike Oldfield. The first riff in 15/8 is made of two bars. The first bar is in 7/8, the second bar is in 8/8.

    18/8

    • "Birds of Fire" by Mahavishnu Orchestra. Guitar plays 5+5+5+3 while drums play 6+6+6. Violin from time to time plays 3+3+2+3+3+2+2..
    • "Moderato", no. 2 (1909) from Four Etudes, op. 2, by Sergei Prokofiev (18/4 in one hand against 4/4 in the other).

    19/16

    • "Celestial Terrestrial Commuters" by Mahavishnu Orchestra.
    • "Keep It Greasy" by Frank Zappa (On the studio album, first verse and guitar solo are counted in 19/16).

    20/4 or 20/8

    Partially in 20/4 or 20/8

    • "Deux moulins", from Airs a III. IIII. V. et VI. parties (première livre, 1608) by Claude Le Jeune (third section, Chant à 3, is barred as 20/4; the rest of the piece is in 21/4).
    • "Sensus spei", part 2 of "De Elegia Tertia" from Threni, id est Lamentationes Jeremiae Prophetae, by Igor Stravinsky.

    21/4

    Partially in 21/4

    • "Deux moulins", from Airs a III. IIII. V. et VI. parties (première livre, 1608) by Claude Le Jeune (first two sections, Rechant à 3 and Réprise à 5, are barred as 21/4; the last section of the piece is in 20/4).

    22/8

    24/1

    • "Brobdingnagische Gigue", from Intrada, nebst burlesquer Suite, for two violins (the so-called "Gulliver Suite") by Georg Philipp Telemann.

    {{3 {{2} over {2}}} over {4}}

    • "Reverie der Laputier, nebst ihren Aufweckern", from Intrada, nebst burlesquer Suite, for two violins (the so-called "Gulliver Suite") by Georg Philipp Telemann.

    Unusual time signature combinations

    • "Bastard" by Ben Folds. A combination of the time signatures 4/4, 3/2, 7/4, 6/4, 3/4, and 5/4.
    • "Here Comes the Sun", by The Beatles. The bridge is in 11/8 + 4/4 + 7/8.
    • "Hey Ya!" by OutKast. Emulates 11/4 by using a cadential six-measure phrase consisting of three 4/4 measures, a 2/4 measure, and two 4/4 measures.

    Unspecified time signatures

    This section should contain only Cite sources listings.

    See also

    Notes and references

    Bibliography

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    • Bartók, Béla. 1940. Mikrokosmos: Progressive Piano Pieces = Pièces de piano progressives = Zongoramuzsika a kezdet legkezdetétöl, 6 vols. New York and London: Boosey & Hawkes.
    • Bernstein, Leonard. 1993. The Age of Anxiety: Symphony No. 2, for piano and orchestra, after W. H. Auden, revised version, full score, corrected edition. [New York]: Jalni Publications, Inc., Boosey & Hawkes.
    • Bernstein, Leonard. 1994. Candide: A Comic Operetta in Two Acts, Scottish Opera edition of the opera-house version (1989). Book by Hugh Wheeler, based on the satire by Voltaire; lyrics by Richard Wilbur, with additional lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, John Latouche, Dorothy Parker, Lillian Hellman, and Leonard Bernstein; edited by Charles Harmon. [New York]: Jalni Publications, Inc.; Boosey & Hawkes.
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    • Brahms, Johannes. 1972. Trios, für Klavier, Violine und Violoncello, nach Eigenschriften, Erstausgaben und Handexemplaren des Komponisten hrsg. von Ernst Herttrich; Fingersatz der Klavierstimme von Hans-Martin Theopold. Munich: G. Henle Verlag.
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    • Britten, Benjamin. 1946. Quartet No. 2 in C, op. 36. London: Boosey & Hawkes.
    • Britten, Benjamin. 1956. Canticle III ('Still Falls the Rain'), op. 55, for tenor, horn, and piano. Words by Edith Sitwell. London, Paris, Bonn, Capetown, Sydney, Toronto, Buenos Aires, New York: Boosey & Co., Ltd.
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