How to play in 5/8

Odd time signatures can seem frightening at first sight – somehow it feels more natural to us to count 4 or 6. Logically 5 shouldn’t be different – however it is.

As listeneres we mostly exposed to music in even meters and 4 and 6 – so our references for odd time signatures are very limited. Learning to feel and understand an underexposed time signature is because of our limited references and material, challenging.

However throughout this chapter I will try to change that – exploring simple concepts that hopefully will inspire you to make new and meaningful music.

The basic clave

The basic clave in 5/8 or 5/4 consists of 4 downbeats of unequal length. I like to think of rhythm as long,long,short,short.

Look at the following notation above and listen, clap and play along to the video below to get a feel for the rhythm.

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As the clever observer has noticed the video is titled metronome 5/4 – which may be confusing to you. The clave in 5/8 or 5/4 as shown above is the same often used in 5/4 sounding the same, but notated differently. Depending on the context of feel of a tune or readability 5/4 and 5/8 notation are used interchangeable.

Song examples

Sting – Seven Days

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Mission Impossible Theme

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Dave Brubeck – Take 5

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