Time discussion....is that 7/4 or 7/8?

BillBachman

Gold Member
I'd say 7/4. The rhythmic placement of chord changes and where the average listener would tap their foot are the keys to determining time signatures. This tune is definitely 3/4 and 4/4 alternating, but players will be quite unhappy if you put a chart in front of then with constant time sig changes, so the two bars are linked into 7 to stay consistent (and the players will quickly figure out to think in bars of 3 & 4 based on the chordal rhythm).

I'm saying 7/4 because the quarter note pulse is smooth and consistent, where as 7/8 would flip every other bar relative to where you'd tap your foot or feel the pulse. There are definitely going to be gray areas between 7/4 and 7/8 depending on the tempo, chordal and melodic rhythm and where the beholder feels the beat. In those situations both answers are correct, but whoever puts it down on paper gets to decide.

Ultimately the time signature for any song can only be definitively determined by the guy writing it with the authority to name it. If we want to take it to a ridiculous end I could say that song is in 15/16 and is full of over the bar line crazy chord transitions & accents if I really wanted to--it's just math that has to add up per bar any way you slice it. (But where the rubber meets the road that song is definitely in 7/4.)
 

DrumDoug

Senior Member
tcspears and Bill both said it, but I want to make it really clear to you younger drummers who don't have a lot of experience reading lots of sheet music. The bottom number has NOTHING to do with how a song is played or how it sounds. The bottom number only has to do with how you WRITE it in sheet music. There are ways that common rhythms are notated that are usually written the same way by most composers, but there is no set in stone way. Most instrumental and drum notation is written in 4/4, 3/4 etc. People that learned to read music in school bands will be most familiar with seeing those common rhythms written that way. Anyone who has ever been in a choir will know that choral music isn't the same. It's mostly written in 4/2 or 3/2 etc. If you were to take someone who had only seen choral music and put the same thing in front of them written in 4/4 they would be confused for a bit wondering why it was written so oddly. There are pages in Anthony Cirone's snare drum book where the time signature changes constantly. 3/4 to 3/8 to 3/16, but the pulse never changes and to a listener they would never know the time signature changed. The whole point is to teach young drummers how to read in different time signatures and to see there is more than one way to write the same rhythm.
 

Skrivarna

Senior Member
I want to make it really clear to you younger drummers who don't have a lot of experience reading lots of sheet music. The bottom number has NOTHING to do with how a song is played or how it sounds. The bottom number only has to do with how you WRITE it in sheet music. There are ways that common rhythms are notated that are usually written the same way by most composers, but there is no set in stone way.
Thanks! I was trying to figure out a good way to explain it, but you said it all.

It's about math and conventions. Keep it simple to read and let the reader know your intentions. That's it.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
I don't think you realize that meter has a great deal to do with the other player's parts as well. A drummer might see alternating 3/4 and 4/4 as the same as 7/4, but this is not the case with other instruments. This is where we, as drummers, get a bad name. We can't live inside a box and completely ignore how music works. The meter determines much more that the drum beat for the song!

The I-IV-V does have to do with it, as your going to derive meter from the song, including its form.
Dude, what are you talking about? You think I don't realize that meter has a little something to do with other players' parts? Why would you assume that, not just of me, but of anyone? That's just weird, man. For the record, while drums are my primary instrument, they're not my only instrument, so getting a lecture from you trying to hip me to the existence of other players is a bit insulting.

I'm not sure what the point is you're trying to make, but the time signature of the drum part is practically never uncoupled from the musical context it's sitting in. If the drum part is in 7/4, it's a pretty safe bet that it became that way only because the music was written in 7/4.

You make it sound as if a sizable chunk of drummers out there are off on independent ops imposing weird time signatures on music independent of the other players and the music they've written. Outside of a very small handful of examples where people have done that deliberately, that just hasn't been my experience, and certainly nothing that's been significant enough to drive down the wider world's perception of drummers.

Yes, the places where chords and their changes fall rhythmically sets the meter, no question. My point is that it doesn't matter whether it's a I-IV-V, a I-iii-vi, a droning I, or any number of possible chord progressions since those are elements related to melodic and harmonic content. Ultimately, it's the rhythm of the progression that sets the time signature.
 

iwearnohats

Silver Member
Just to add my 2cents (and not contradicting Bill or Mike).

I personally would notate this as alternating 3/4 and 4/4.

But it is definitely a 1/4 note feel and not an 1/8 note feel.

There is also no tricky modulation or anything going on - it is simply that the bars in the verses resolve at 7 quarter notes.


Simplified examples:
Code:
4/4:
1...2...3...4...
H.h.H.h.H.h.H.h.
B...S...B...S...

7/8:
1...2...3...4.
H.h.H.h.H.h.H.
B...S...B...S.

7/4:
1...2...3...4...5...6...7...
H.h.H.h.H.h.H.h.H.h.H.h.H.h.
B...S...B...S...B...S...B...

This song (3/4 + 4/4)
1...2...3...1...2...3...4...
H.h.H.h.H.h.H.h.H.h.H.h.H.h.
B...S...B...B...S...B...S...
 

Naigewron

Platinum Member
3+4=7. Has a quarter note pulse (the bottom number ). Quarter note=4.

So , it's 7/4
That doesn't really make much sense. That's pretty much like saying 4 + 4 is 8, so any song in 4/4 is actually in 8/4. Time signatures are not fractions; we don't have to find the lowest common denominator (or whatever it's called in English).

FWIW: To my ears, the verse of the song is definitely alternating between 3/4 and 4/4. Counting it as any version of 7 doesn't sound right to me. Counting as 7/4 makes the second accent of each phrase fall on beat 4, which is awkward, and counting as 7/8 makes the phrase two bars long, with an accent on the last beat of the first bar and no accent in the second.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
It's 7/4 in 3+4 division which I wouldn't call 7 in this case. More 3/4 and 4/4 alternating.

If you got a sheet it would probably be written as 3/4 + 4/4 just by the song's style and nature. Although you can count 7 it doesn't have a 7 feel, just a 4/4 feel with the first of every pair of bars being cut short.

Nothing that suggests a 7 feel.

3/4 4/4 3/4 4/4.....................
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
It's 7/4 but the verse lines are phrased 6/8 8/8. I'd count in 8ths which makes it easier.
 

Skrivarna

Senior Member
Counting it as any version of 7 doesn't sound right to me. Counting as 7/4 makes the second accent of each phrase fall on beat 4, which is awkward
Why is that? 7/4 (or 7/8) is commonly phrased as 3+4 or 4+3 (less commonly, but perfectly possible as 3+3+1 or something else).

Having read music for 40 years I don't ever try to figure out the feel based on the time signature alone. Read the melody, the chord phrasing, patterns in accents. Listen.

And when writing/transcribing for someone else, just make clear comments on what feel, phrasing and subdivision you want.
 

Naigewron

Platinum Member
Why is that? 7/4 (or 7/8) is commonly phrased as 3+4 or 4+3 (less commonly, but perfectly possible as 3+3+1 or something else).

Having read music for 40 years I don't ever try to figure out the feel based on the time signature alone. Read the melody, the chord phrasing, patterns in accents. Listen.

And when writing/transcribing for someone else, just make clear comments on what feel, phrasing and subdivision you want.
Not saying it can't be counted as 7, all I'm saying is that it feels awkward and if I were to read the sheet music for this it would make much more sense to me to transcribe it as alternating 3/4 and 4/4. It would make it much easier to get a feel for the song without hearing it first or working it out by looking for accented notes.

There's no real correct answer anyway, especially considering that I doubt this track was ever transcribed before it was recorded.
 

BCUREdrums

Junior Member
Wow! I thought only Sting did country in 7?!
I like to think of time signatures as merely compositional tools for the sheet music. I find it to be more freeing for performance when I break up odd meter into pulses of 2's and 3's. The groupings of those 2's and 3's are often important. I like to think of it like odd meter clave, you've got your 2+2+3, 3+2+2. Once you feel that in your gut there's no need to count.
The writing of it is just for clear organizational/compositional purposes. Often times it's up to what looks the best and is easy to read.
Lot of great thoughts and info on this thread. Cheers!
 
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