Are odd time subdivisions worth learning?

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I don't know why, but that always bothered me about that song, just sounds "broken" as I would call it, or like the record skipped.
I play it in two bands, and it's hard to imagine it any other way. Even the one unexpected bar of 4/4 is just part of the song. I'd probably have trouble playing it straight through if asked. It's like taking a 4/4 song and playing it in 5... that's not how it goes!
 

MG1127

Active Member
EVERYTHING is worth understanding.

I didn't say "mastering" or "using ad nauseam"

Understanding

As long as you understand it you can use it if the opportunity presents itself.

Odd groupings are used very tastefully all over music and often go right over the heads of a casual listener when executed properly.

Some of this stuff like 5s or 7s are often used without the player even realizing it because they are so natural.

Again it all comes down to listening and internalizing.

If you've done an insane amount of obsessive listening and studying players as every musician should these things will become just another figure or shape you've heard ... so when you connect the theory to it it's simply an "ahhh I see" moment and you move on

Far too often musicians take this scholastic approach to learning ... it's just music ... listen to it
 
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Seafroggys

Silver Member
Learning the hard stuff makes you better at the easy stuff.

I got Sticking Patterns a few months back as well, I made my way a decent way through it and then just kinda stopped, thinking...."Why?" It wasn't the quints and septs so much, as it was the weird sticking patterns it was having me do.

In the past year I've been working quite a bit on quints and septs and even though I find little context in using them in most the music I do, its still fun as hell to learn and think of ways to play. At certain tempos for solos or longer drum breaks, quints are the perfect balance between "slow" "unimpressive" 16th notes and "this is a little fast for me to be comfortable" sextuplets. You're not gonna use them a lot, but if you need them for that one thing, they're just the ticket.
 

JimmyM

Gold Member
You WILL get music in odd time signatures sometimes, though most are fairly simple. But you should never turn down the opportunity to learn a new general music theory concept. It will only make you a better player and a stronger musical mind, even if you rarely use it on a gig.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Always good to learn more things, the big question is always when to learn it. A lot of times there are more immediate things needing attention. Chaffee demands a lot of time, and I don't think you need to prioritize it just because it's in the book you have in front of you right now.

I've worked through a lot of stuff over the years, including everything in those books, and the odd tuplets are the one thing that I felt carried over least into other areas. I still practice a lot of stuff, but 35 years later I haven't felt tempted to revisit that yet.
 

Otto

Platinum Member
Understanding what makes a fluid 7/4 feel helped me in understanding a fluid 4/4 feel...and gave me a way to approach the same idea but between 1/8 note odd groupings generating 'over the bar' multi-phrase completions of 1/4 notes.
 

Sebenza

Member
I'm a bit confused when I read some replies here... Are we only talking about odd subdivisions within the beat, such as quintuplets, septuplets, etc..., or are we also talking time signatures, such as 5/4 , 7/4 , 9/8 etc...?

Because I personally have never felt the need to dive into the first, since phrasing within eights and triplets and their derivatives has been more than enough to express myself. If there ever is a need to be tricky or fancy with one's phrasing, there is plenty of scope for that within the more common beat values.

But odd time signatures on the other hand, yes, that is definitely something I feel is worth working on. I've had plenty situations where it was required and as a drummer you are certainly expected to always know "where the 1" is.
 

JimmyM

Gold Member
I'm a bit confused when I read some replies here... Are we only talking about odd subdivisions within the beat, such as quintuplets, septuplets, etc..., or are we also talking time signatures, such as 5/4 , 7/4 , 9/8 etc...?

Because I personally have never felt the need to dive into the first, since phrasing within eights and triplets and their derivatives has been more than enough to express myself. If there ever is a need to be tricky or fancy with one's phrasing, there is plenty of scope for that within the more common beat values.

But odd time signatures on the other hand, yes, that is definitely something I feel is worth working on. I've had plenty situations where it was required and as a drummer you are certainly expected to always know "where the 1" is.
You don't want to amaze everyone with your way awesome quints and seps that throws dancers way off?

:D
 

Trigger

Senior Member
Nah. It's borderline pointless. Unless it really interests you, learn shuffles or swiss triplets or something. They'll come in handy a lot more.
 

Caz

Senior Member
You don't want to amaze everyone with your way awesome quints and seps that throws dancers way off?

:D
Haha.. call it payback for swing dancers with all their 3-beat steps whilst the band are in 4/4. Sometimes I join the dance tutorials when gigging with my swing band, they basically dance in 3/4 over the top a lot of the time it's crazy. Let's see how they get on with the 2-and-a-half step..
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I'm a bit confused when I read some replies here... Are we only talking about odd subdivisions within the beat, such as quintuplets, septuplets, etc..., or are we also talking time signatures, such as 5/4 , 7/4 , 9/8 etc...?

Because I personally have never felt the need to dive into the first, since phrasing within eights and triplets and their derivatives has been more than enough to express myself. If there ever is a need to be tricky or fancy with one's phrasing, there is plenty of scope for that within the more common beat values.

But odd time signatures on the other hand, yes, that is definitely something I feel is worth working on. I've had plenty situations where it was required and as a drummer you are certainly expected to always know "where the 1" is.

I'm talking about what the OP asked about, odd tuplets or odd subdivisions of a beat, as found in Gary Chaffee's Patterns series of books.

Odd time signatures are a different thing, definitely worth working on for most people, whether they're going to play them IRL or not.


chaffee-example_03.pngchaffee-example_02.pngchaffee-example_01.png
 

MG1127

Active Member
I'm a bit confused when I read some replies here... Are we only talking about odd subdivisions within the beat, such as quintuplets, septuplets, etc..., or are we also talking time signatures, such as 5/4 , 7/4 , 9/8 etc...?

Because I personally have never felt the need to dive into the first, since phrasing within eights and triplets and their derivatives has been more than enough to express myself. If there ever is a need to be tricky or fancy with one's phrasing, there is plenty of scope for that within the more common beat values.

But odd time signatures on the other hand, yes, that is definitely something I feel is worth working on. I've had plenty situations where it was required and as a drummer you are certainly expected to always know "where the 1" is.
you consider anything outside of even subdivisions "tricky" and "fancy" ?

that seems extremely strange to me.

They are nothing of the sort

I would bet you use them quite regularly without even knowing it ...especially 5s and maybe 7s... even 9s because they work pretty much as triplets in most cases.

It's basically impossible to listen to any sort of music without someone , not only a drummer ... a vocalist, a guitar plater, a bass player, a sax player, a piano player etc... phrasing in odd number subdivisions at some point

It's not like they are thinking ... hey I'm about to get tricky and throw some 5 subdivisions at ya !

It's just music ... it's the way it works out naturally ... they sound completely natural

I don't even mean in a marching band context where they are pretty much unavoidable ... in just a natural phrasing context.

I think the word "odd" for some reason leads people to think this is some off the wall sorcery that will work against the music for the sake of being flashy ... quite the contrary
 

JohnRick

Member
You should be able to take any grouping of notes (1-12 to ∞) and play them in any subdivision (triplets, 16th notes, quintuplets, sextuplets, septuplets ...), in any time signature. That said, we are not all Virgil, and even though he's mostly into more complicated stuff he also takes some time off and just chill with his quints every now and then. Although "simpler" here since they are all playing in that subdivision. Here with proper notation:

 
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V-Four

Senior Member
You should be able to take any grouping of notes (1-12 to ∞) and play them in any subdivision (triplets, 16th notes, quintuplets, sextuplets, septuplets ...), in any time signature. That said, we are not all Virgil, and even though he's mostly into more complicated stuff he also takes some time off and just chill with his quints every now and then. Although "simpler" here since they are all playing in that subdivision. Here with proper notation:


Sounds like he's playing a Carter Beauford part to a DMB song.. (which of course is awesome), I dont love DMB, but I do Love Carter's Drumming..(y)


T$
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Platinum Member
Haha.. call it payback for swing dancers with all their 3-beat steps whilst the band are in 4/4. Sometimes I join the dance tutorials when gigging with my swing band, they basically dance in 3/4 over the top a lot of the time it's crazy. Let's see how they get on with the 2-and-a-half step..

dude...I hear ya!! We learned sing dancing for our wedding, and I never realized that it was in 3/4...that, along with the fact that I am a bumbling oaf, made the process that much more comical...
 
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Reactions: Caz

dcrigger

Senior Member

Spreggy

Silver Member
If we're talking odd time signatures, then sure, if they're in your gig. If you're playing fusion, great chance you'll get called on to play in three, five, six, seven without getting into anything extreme or mathy. It's cool stuff to have in your pocket either way, so good to get familiar.

If we're talking groupings, oh hell yeah, for any style. For one you'll develop a fill vocab that will help you answer the call of the music with better taste and control. They help you make more distinct dynamic separation too. You're already doing it, if you play the Pat Boone Debby Boone fill, that's a 2 2 2 2 . But hey you like to spice it a little, so maybe try it 2 1 3 2 so Debby inherits a pickup note from Pat's Boone. On the fly, you're probably not gonna be thinking 3-5-7-2 or whatever, but if you practice them they'll be in your fingers when you want to make a particular shape. A fun way to get some of this going is with Benny Greb's book/DVD. His method is nothing new, but presented well with the progression from the pad to the snare to the groove to the fill.
 

SomeBadDrummer

Platinum Member
I'm going through Chaffee's books and quintuplets, septuplets, and nonuplets are present in some of the exercises and studies.


I'm sure it can't hurt to be able to play these subdivisions, however, if I'm being honest, I fail to envision a musical situation in which I would use them...
Not sure what your experience level or age is, but the one thing to remember in music is that you want to be the absolute best you can be regardless of the situation.

Imagine you are at a tryout for whatever genre, and in the moment some other band's drummer doesn't show for whatever reason and they need someone to play a little funky tune with some 5/4, 4/4,/3/4, 7/8 stuff and you happen to know how to read that sh+t. Crazier things have happened, so my little bit of free advice is learn everything you can about reading including some of the more complex subdivisions. What have you got to lose?
 

dcrigger

Senior Member
Understanding what makes a fluid 7/4 feel helped me in understanding a fluid 4/4 feel...and gave me a way to approach the same idea but between 1/8 note odd groupings generating 'over the bar' multi-phrase completions of 1/4 notes.
I have to kinda really disagree - if you are touting the "lay 1/4's across an odd meter to achieve a more fluid or more grooving feel". This is a great advanced technique/effect when used appropriately - but still an effect... the underlying odd meter still has to feel good.... and feel like 7/8 or 9/8. Not like a collection on the beat then off the beat accents.

Actually in my experience, the trick with the 1/4 note over 7/8 thing isn't feel the 1/4 as "normal" but in fact, feel it as being odd. In other words, always keeping the 7/8 as the main groove basis. Thus why this effect didn't show up well into the development of odd meters in jazz. fusion and prog.

First example of this 1/4's over odd 1/8th note meter that I'm aware of, would be Ralph Humphrey's performance on the tune "Sladka Pitka" on the Don Ellis album "Soaring" recorded in 73. At that time, this band was very versed in playing odd meters - and this effect wasn't an attempt to make the 9/8 easier and more accessible, but to add a (at that time, never before heard) layer if complexity. Same goes later with Vinnie with Sting - remove those 1/4's and those tracks get easier - way easier.

Of course, your mileage may very - but in my experience, these 1/8th note meters are more than capable of being both fluid and grooving without adding additional layers of complexity.
 
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