Figuring out a time signature

veecharlie

Senior Member
Hey guys,

This might sound ridiculous for some... but, to be honest, I'm not very good with odd time signatures other than 3/4 and 6/8. I'm trying to change that, so I hope to not get tomatoes thrown at me lol. So, I have an easy song to figure out, Forsaken by Dream Theater. I'm sure I'm an idiot and did not think about it before but... how does it proceed? I'm also quite sure there are a couple of time signature changes. And, I know DT is not the easiest stuff regarding time signatures, but if you listen to this song it's pretty straight forward.

Any tips on figuring out odd time signatures while listening?
Thanks a lot!
 
Last edited:

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
Typically there's not much to the process. You find the pulse, then you count that pulse, and when the pattern starts over, your count stops. It's not always easy, especially with complicated prog where other instruments might even be playing in contrasting/complimenting/different signatures from the drums or other stuff.

Sometimes unless the author wrote how they feel the song it can be difficult to know if you're "correct" in their terms since a lot of time signatures are interchangeable or subdivisible.
 

Terry Branam

Official DW Chief Transcriber
I listened to the first half of the song. It was mainly in 4/4, but the verses were in 7/8

My approach to hearing odd meters is to first listen and count as many odd meter songs as possible! Then try to listen to bands like this, and when you can't count something, try to listen to all of the instruments and identify where the chords change, the vocal phrasing, the bass line, and where the drums sit with it all. Try to count where you feel the groove and listen to where the 'skip" or "lump" is.

Best of luck!!
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I listened to the first half of the song. It was mainly in 4/4, but the verses were in 7/8

My approach to hearing odd meters is to first listen and count as many odd meter songs as possible! Then try to listen to bands like this, and when you can't count something, try to listen to all of the instruments and identify where the chords change, the vocal phrasing, the bass line, and where the drums sit with it all. Try to count where you feel the groove and listen to where the 'skip" or "lump" is.

Best of luck!!
Agree with these comments and will add that when working it out, as a drummer I'll often key in on the snare notes to determine where things might be starting over. As you mention, that's not always the best key and sometimes it works better to hear the bass pattern or something else.
 

beatdat

Senior Member
Start tapping the pulse using alternate sticking. If the pulse lands on the beat at the beginning of the next phrase, simply count how many beats per phrase (this will likely give you an odd time signature with a 1/4 note pulse - eg. Pink Floyd's "Money", which is in 7/4).

If, however, the beat at the beginning of the next phrase does not land on the pulse you're tapping in 1/4 notes, start again, but this time tap an 1/8th note pulse. Again, if the pulse lands on the beat at the beginning of the next phrase, simply count how many beats per phrase (eg. Brand X's "Nuclear Burn", which is in 11/8).

Keep dividing the pulse you tap out as required (eg. 1/16th notes, 1/32nd notes, etc.) until you can tap out a phrase that lands on the pulse when it starts.
 

TMe

Senior Member
What time signature is this: Bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang....?

I went to an audition once where the guitarist was playing exactly that, the same chord over and over with no dynamic variation at all, and he looked at me with disdain, like I was some kind of moron because I couldn't figure out he was playing in 3/4 time. Wow. As soon as he started singing it was obvious, but he just kept banging the same chord over and over, waiting for me to come in.

Sometimes you need psychic abilities.
 

veecharlie

Senior Member
Thanks guys! I previously was just listening and trying to count along. I guess I need to get used to listen and count more often! thanks a lot :)
 

beatdat

Senior Member
he looked at me with disdain, like I was some kind of moron because I couldn't figure out he was playing in 3/4 time
You should have just started playing in 5/4.

Thanks guys! I previously was just listening and trying to count along. I guess I need to get used to listen and count more often! thanks a lot :)
Keep your counting simple. Counting 1+2+3 or 1e&a, 2e& gets confusing when trying to figure out an odd time signature. Count 1,2,3,4 and break the phrase up into 1s, 1,2s, 1,2,3s, and 1,2,3,4s.

And like others have suggested, don't count to the drums, count to the music.
 
Top