How to Play Odd Time Signatures on Guitar

Stationary red analog metronome
A picture of an analogue metronome

What is an Odd Time Signature?

How do you play odd time signatures and what is an odd time signature?

When speaking of odd time signatures the word odd can be thought of as meaning the antithesis of even. It can also mean strange or uncommon. Odd time signatures have odd numbers like 5/4, 7/4, 7/8 and so forth. Perhaps these are considered odd because they are uncommon?

That last statement may be true. But let’s consider a time signatures such as 9/8 time. It has an odd number in it, but actually 9/8 time could be divided into three groups of three. That’s kind of like triplets in 3/4 time. 3/4 is certainly a quite common time signature. It also has an odd number! So do we consider it to be odd?

Why is 3/4 Time NOT Considered Odd?

At least I am one who doesn’t really consider 3/4 to be odd. That’s perhaps because if you take two measures of 3/4 time it can often be felt as a kind of triplet 2/2 time. You may count it like one and a two and a. And of course, 3/4 is a popular waltz rhythm that goes too and fro.

Now let’s consider 7/4 time. This one is odd but there are definitely examples of well know music being played in 7/4. Pink Floyd’s song Money is an example.

Watch These Examples of 7/4 Time

In the video that follows, you can see examples of how to play odd time signatures. In this case, it’s 7/4 time. Watch the video below for two examples of playing 7/4 time on guitar, as both arpeggios and as block chords. You can also find some ideas of how to use chord progressions in different ways to achieve completely different effects.

Watch how a 4/4 chord progression is played 7/4 two different ways

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