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In music, the most encountered time signature is 4/4, boring old Common Time
. There's also 2/4 and 2/2, "cut time," which aren't too much different - all the bars still divide evenly into two. 3/4, sometimes called "Waltz Time", is also fairly intuitive- if you've ever been taught to dance by counting "step, two, three, step, two, three" then you know how it works. You can start mixing the twos up with threes and get 6/4, 3/2, 6/8, 9/8 and such, which don't have the same rhythms as Common Time
, but can still be counted out fairly easily.
Music in Uncommon Time, however, does away with regular meters, and instead opts for totally unconventional rhythms that mix twos and threes with abandon. This can be done by choosing an oddball time signature such as 5/4 or 7/8 that can't be divided regularly into twos and threes, and/or by switching time signatures rapidly and seemingly at random.
See also The Other Wiki
's list of musical works in unusual time signatures
- The "top" number of a time signature indicates how many beats are in a measure, and the bottom number indicates the length of the beat, as determined by how many multiples of the beat make up a semibreve (whole note). For example, a 4/4 time signature means "four beats per measure, counted in quarter notes." As such, the top number is usually what makes a difference: a song that's in 4/4 will sound more-or-less the same as a song that's in 4/2 because both of them go "one two three four", even though it'll look longer on paper. Likewise, a song in 4/4 is not the same as a song in 2/2, because while each measure has the same "duration" (4 x 0.25 versus 2 x 0.5), a 2/2 song only has two beats ("One, Two, One, Two..."). (And "duration" is a relative term anyhow since a song in 4/4 can be played super-slow and a song in 2/2 super-fast, or vice-versa.)
- Time signatures are conventionally divided into simple, compound, and irregular. In a simple time signature, each beat is subdivided into two — thus, a simple duple meter might be 2/4 (1 and 2 and) and a simple triple meter might be 3/4 (1 and 2 and 3 and). In a compound time signature, each beat is subdivided into three — compound duple meter being 1 and a 2 and a, complex triple being 1 and a 2 and a 3 and a, etc. These time signatures are often written as 3/8, 6/8, 9/8, etc, which may seem somewhat counterintuitive; a 6/8 bar is the same length as a 3/4 bar and may look visually similar, but they sound nothing alike. For audialization purposes it might help to divide top and bottom of a compound time signature by 3 — 6/8 is more properly understood as 2/2.666..., but fractional notation never caught on.
- Irregular time signatures are those that are not evenly divided, and as such fall within the purview of this trope. For example, 5/8 can be divided into 2 + 3 or 3 + 2. As a rule, any time signature where the top number is not a multiple of 2 or 3 will be irregular*. There are, however, a number of regular-looking time signatures that are often irregularly divided: 8/8, for example, is commonly divided in folk music into 3 + 2 + 3 or 3 + 3 + 2. Sometimes these will be notated in the score, e.g. as 3+3+2/8, to avoid confusion.
- Finally, there are irrational time signatures. These are time signatures in which the beat is a tuplet — i.e. an equal subdivision of the semibreve that is not divisible by two. For example, a piece may call for 4/5 — four quintuplet crochets (where five quintuplets equal four regular crochets) per bar. Since this in practice means simply a brief increase in tempo by 120%, irrational time signatures are only useful as occasional, brief "metric modulations" and rarely show up outside the most esoteric works of experimental music. There would be no point to writing a whole song in 4/5; you could as easily notate it in 4/4 at a hundred and twenty percent of the speed and without giving musicians huge headaches.
- And there is music in no time signature at all (in "free time"), mostly written before 1600 (in the days of mensural notation).
Also realize that a pattern of several different time signatures (such as 3 bars of 4/4 and one of 2/4) are not usually combined and called by the combined time (14/4 in the example given). This is mostly because musicians rely on bar lines as a visual navigation aid; very large measures are easy to get lost in (and hard to fit on a single piece of paper!). So although unique combinations of time signatures are Uncommon Time
, your musicians will hate you if you combine them into something like 27/4
- Many ancient hymns and chants don't even use time signatures. As a result, some have really weird settings where each line might have, say, 4 1/2 beats.
- Overall, it's become almost ridiculously common for modern hymn composers to jump all over the place with time signatures:
- "Waterlife", a hymn composed by Handt Hanson, is in 7/4 on the verses.
- "Look There! The Christ, Our Brother Stands", by John Bennett, has two melodies in the Episcopalian The Hymnal 1982. The first tune, by William Albright, has the right hand playing an 11/8 ostinato over a verse that starts in 5/4 but switches to 4/4 partway through.
- And many more of the newly composed tunes in the same book will lack time signatures entirely, but have bars that are obviously meant to be treated as something like 5/4 or 7/4 when all the other stanzas are 4/4.
- One melody for "Christ, Mighty Savior" in the same book is written in what can only be described as 4½/4 time — it doesn't actually have a time signature.
- Likewise with "Of the Father's Love Begotten".
- Josh Groban's "In Her Eyes" is 5/4 time.
- Igor Stravinsky loved changing time signatures almost every measure. "The Rite Of Spring" is a good example of him playing havoc with time signatures: "The Naming and Honoring of the Chosen One" changes, in consecutive measures, from 9/8 to 5/8 to 7/8 to 3/8 to 4/8 to 7/4 to 3/4.
- The "resurrection" sequence that begins the finale to The Firebird has several bars in 7/4 time.
- The finale of Borodin's Symphony No. 2 alternates bars of 3/4 and 2/4 in its main theme.
- And "Bazaar Of The Caravans" from Kismet, which is merely the finale of Borodin's Symphony No. 2 with an overlaid vocal arrangement.
- "Sensemayá" by Silvestre Revueltas is primarily in 7/8, but has a lot of measures in various other time signatures.
- In Gustav Holst's The Planets, "Mars" is in 5/4 and 5/2 (except for the coda, which is 3/4) and "Neptune" is entirely in 5/4. (Indeed, the movements are symmetrical (in the order presented, rather than the actual order of the planets) when it comes to time signatures)
- In a lesser known work, "Egdon Heath," he uses 7/4, a later section is in 5/4, and instead of actually writing out triplets, in the middle he puts half the orchestra in 7/4 and half in 21/8. At different points in the piece, there are also two bars of 4/4
- Raymond Deane is fond of this.
- Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms is in Hebrew and employs 6 percussionists, and that's just the beginning. The first movement is mostly in 7/4, the second in 3/4, 4/4 and then 3/4-against-4/4 (a Soprano and Gravel juxtaposition where the women sing the 23rd Psalm against men chanting at Dakka speed about war), and the final in 10/4.
- Bernstein's "waltzes" were sometimes in the usual 3/4 (e.g. the "Paris Waltz" in Candide), and sometimes really different: the waltz in his Divertimento for Orchestra is in 7/8; the waltz in his ballet music for Fancy Free switches freely between 3/4, 3/8 and 4/4.
- If you think the quote at the top of the page is a joke, you should talk to Norwegian composer Knut Nystedt. He has a setting of the "Veni Sancte Spiritus" text which, From 2:39 to 3:03, gives the sopranos and altos a pattern represented by one bar of 4/2 and another of 3/2, while the tenors and basses a pattern in two bars of 4/2. And all four parts begin their patterns at totally different times, meaning that each part's bar lines don't necessarily line up. The best a conductor can do at that point is give individual beats and then hope to God his singers can count.
- Whoever claimed it might be more intuitive to notate triplet meters as X/6 might care to glance at the score of Thomas Adès's Piano Quintet sometime. The first and last few bars are in 4/4 (not that they sound like it). In between things get a bit ... complicated. 4/5, 1/12, 3/10, 6/7.... What's more, in many places each of the five players has a completely different "irrational" time signature, synchronising with the others only occasionally. Yeah. It's somewhat surprising that it can be performed at all without coming across as a godawful polymetric mess.
- And even that doesn't compare to some of Conlon Nancarrow's music, like a player piano study in which the parts are moving at a ratio of √42 (~6.4807) to 1.
- Willson Osbourne's Rhapsody for Solo Clarinet has a measure in 5.5/4 time.
- Karl Jenkins' Chorale (sol-fa) + Cantus 'Song of Aeolus' is a mix of 2 songs. The result is a song, part 5/8, part 7/8 and part 4/4.
- Jami Sieber's "Long past gone" and "Tell it by heart" have alternating 12/4 and 11/4 bars.
- Robert Jager's Third Suite for Band, a perennial favorite, includes a march with a first strain in 7/4 (4 + 3) and second strain and trio in 5/4 (3 + 2) followed by a waltz in 5/4 (3 + 2).
- Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" is in 9/8 time.
- Enya commonly uses uncommon time signatures in her work, often switching them mid-song. "Book Of Days" changes time signature nearly every measure (4/4 to 3/2 to 5/4 to 2/4 to 5/4, etc...) except for the bridge which maintains the opening 4/4 time.
- Percy Aldridge Granger put the third movement of Lincolnshire Posy into 2.5/4 and the 4th movement switches between 5/8 and 7/8.
- The Promenade from Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky (no, that's not a descriptor. That's his name) alternates between 5/4 and 6/4 for its first few measures.
- The finale of Sergei Prokofiev's Sonata for Violin and Piano in F minor has a main theme that mixes 5/8, 7/8 and 8/8.
- In Bela Bartok's Mikrokosmos, the Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm are respectively in (4+2+3)/8, (2+2+3)/8, (2+3)/8, (3+2+3)/8, (2+2+2+3)/8 and (3+3+2)/8.
- Szelenyi has a piece aptly titled "Changing Bars." There are only four places where it stays in the same meter for two measures in a row. The rest of the time it alternates between 2/8, 3/8, and 4/8 with no apparent logic behind it.
- The finale of Samuel Barber's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra is in a very fast 5/8.
- Ralph Vaughan Williams in his youth wrote Heroic Elegy and Triumphal Epilogue in 7/8 time. Not so bad, except that it also starts with a syncopated triplet and another syncopated quaver immediately following, and keeps this up as an ostinato for over ten minutes. Unsurprisingly, it never became a favorite of any conductor.
- A common verse pattern in country music: Two 4/4 bars, a 2/4 bar and another 4/4 bar (or 2/2 and 1/2, respectively, for a 7/2). Examples include "Skip a Rope" by Henson Cargill, and "Just Might Have Her Radio On" by Trent Tomlinson. Randy Travis' "If I Didn't Have You" and "A Different World" by Bucky Covington use the 2/2-2/2-1/2-2/2 variant.
- Dennis Linde was fond of slipping 6/4 and 7/4 bars into his usually 4/4 songs, including "Janie Baker's Love Slave" and "Heaven Bound (I'm Ready)" by Shenandoah; "Night Is Fallin' in My Heart" by Diamond Rio; "Down in a Ditch" by Joe Diffie; etc.
- "Music on the Wind" by Suzy Bogguss is in 5/4 time.
- "Cowboys and Angels" by Dustin Lynch is in 7/4.
Folk and Blues
- Electronic music giants Autechre sometimes delve into unusual time signatures - "Drane" from Peel Session and "Cichli" from Chiastic Slide are in 10/4, while "777" from LP5 is 7/8. The melody from "Slip on Amber" also seems to follow an odd signature. Inexplicably, Confield, which is probably one of the weirdest albums in the world, uses common time. Gantz Graf is also very confusing, which makes it hard for some to figure out it's in innocent common time all along.
- They also have an interesting variation on polyrhythms, which assumes a straight 4/4 rhythm and expected four measures throughout the track, except for the bass drum pattern which only follows three measures, leading to interesting combinations. Listen to "Rotar" from Tri Repetae and "Cichli" from Chiastic Slide for examples.
- Autechre also like to abuse tempos. With "Teartear" (from Amber), it merely means a simple slowdown at the end of the song, but "Cap.IV" from Gantz Graf, which is in constant acceleration, nearly becomes a huge smear by the end of the track, and the rhythm in "Fold4,Wrap5" from LP5 somehow manages to constantly shift its tempo down only to return to its origin again (all while the melody seemingly keeps a steady rhythm).
- iamamiwhoami's "u-2," part of the "To whom it may concern." series, is in 7/4 time.
- Venetian Snares is the all-time king of this, having used it so much he damn near inverts it. How crazy does he get? "Nineteen 1319" alternates 13/4 and 19/4 time.
- For him, Common Time is the least common signature—he prefers 7/4.
- He appears to have a follower in Scottish musician Acrnym.
- "Polyrhythm" by Perfume. The bridge has 5/8 and 6/8 (vocal parts) over 4/4 (the drumbeat), then to 3/2 after the vocal 'hiccups'; the low synth has a 7:6 polyrhythm. It was such a radical song for what is essentially an Idol Group that the company initially requested that the bridge be cut altogether. The song's composer (and Record Producer) Yasutaka Nakata saw that the song was allowed to stand as is (although a radio edit version was made in concession), and it became Perfume's first top ten hit.
- The aforementioned Autechre and Venetian Snares have actually collaborated on a track titled "Elephant Gear" under the alias "AEVSVS" as part of a compilation of tracks in memory of Elektron co-founder Daniel Hansson. Naturally, the track was in uncommon time, specifically 5/4.
- The song "Good-N-Evil" from Traci Lords' album "1000 Fires" is a 7/8 song given a four-on-the-floor rhythm, which makes the meter sound like 3.5/4.
- The title track of Lazerhawk's Visitors has a 5/4 bassline against a 4/4 beat, while "The Voyage" alternates between 3*7/8 and 4/4, basically the "Tubular Bells" rhythm minus a half-beat.
- "Punchinello" by Mr. 76ix is in 14/16, which is not the same as 7/8 since it is divided differently: 2/4 + 2*3/16 rather than 2/4 +3/8.
- ohGr's "Eyecandy"(11/8) and "Feelin' Chicken"(5/4).
- 6/8 appears to be the most common key in the Medieval European music.
- Greek folk dance style Tzakonikos employs 5/4 key.
- Vienna Teng's "Harbor", which is in 5/8 when it's not in 6/8, 3+3+2/8 (which is not the same as 8/8 due to the location of the stresses) or 7/8.
- A lesser-known but better example is "Signal Fire", ostensibly a 5/4 piece that changes meter at the drop of a hat.
- And the opener from her most recent album, "The Last Snowfall," is in a steady 5/4.
- Bulgarian music is really big on difficult time signatures. Here is an example of traditional folk dancing in 11/16, 7/8, 12/8 and 8/8, roughly in this order.
- Nickel Creek's "In the House of Tom Bombadil" has a recurring bridge that is either played in 9/8 or 9/4 time, made more interesting by the occurrence of a single 4/4 bar at the beginning of every repetition of the motif.
- Sufjan Stevens loves this trope. You'll hear it several times per album, sometimes even per song.
- Bert Jansch was notorious for fitting the music to his lyrics, rather than the more common lyrics to music. As a result many of his songs veer off wildly into odd time signatures just for that one line, with little logic or reason aside from "it sounds better".
- For added fun, the Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon song "The Collins Missile" has the vocals in 4/4 but the music in 5/4, such that the point at which the vocals come in constantly shifts.
- "Autopsy" by Fairport Convention is in 3/4, 4/4 and 5/4.
- Paul Simon's jazzy satire "Have A Good Time" has verses in 7/4 and choruses in straight 4/4.
- Irish folk music often plays around with Uncommon Time - for instance, "Rocky Road To Dublin" is in 9/8.
- Actually, Irish music just has several "sub-genres", which are basically divided by time signature:
- If it's in cut time (2/2), it's a reel, or maybe a hornpipe.
- If it's in 6/8, it's a jig. There are also slip jigs, in 9/8 (including "Rocky Road To Dublin"), and a few in 12/8.
- 3/4 and 4/4 are primarily used for songs (as opposed to dance music), but also show up in instrumentals.
- "Heartless Highway" by Alela Diane is in 5/4 and 4/4.
- "Chronologie Part 1" by Jean Michel Jarre starts in 9/8.
- Done rather oddly with the Gorillaz song "5/4" - the opening guitar riff is, indeed, in 5/4 time, but when the drums kick in they are in a much slower 4/4 time, so that the measures are of identical length.
- Eminem's "Underground" is in 5/8.
- OutKast's "Hey Ya!" is in some fairly strange meter signature. I think it's [4+4+4+2+4+4]/4, or 22/4.
- It's actually just three measures of 4/4, one of 2/4 and two more of 4/4; these six measures form a larger super-pattern that is repeated throughout the song. The thing about time signatures is that the super-pattern does not have to be encapsulated in the time signature. Rolling Stone made that mistake, calling it 11/4.
- The "time studies" of the Dave Brubeck Quartet use unconventional time signatures.
- "Take Five", "Countdown" and "Castilian Blues" are in 5/4;
- "Three's A Crowd" and "Unsquare Dance" are in 7/4;
- "Eleven Four" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin (to be more precise, [3+ 2+ 3+ 3]/4).
- The outer sections of "Blue Rondo A La Turk" are in [2+ 2+ 2+ 3]/8 (the improvised middle section is in Common Time).
- "Three To Get Ready" alternates between 3/4 and 4/4 every two bars.
- "Take Five" is both the Ur Example of this trope in pop music (coming a decade or more before Prog Rock and even the Beatles' temporal experiments) and the Trope Maker for a new genre of jazz: despite the Uncommon Time, its rhythm is simple enough that a lot of jazz songs have copied it since. In the '50s, this was groundbreaking.
- They did do a piece in 4/4 on one of those records, the joke being that the piece promptly turns into a waltz in 3/4.
- It's actually worse than that — "Kathy's Waltz" features a saxophone solo by Paul Desmond in waltz time with the drummer (Joe Morello) playing 6/8 behind him, then segues into a waltz-time piano solo by Brubeck that suddenly breaks into a 4/4 swing right in the middle, with Eugene Wright playing bass in 3/4 while Morello continues to play 6/8... it has to be heard to be believed.
- Jazz musician and arranger Don Ellis was known for his use of unorthodox time signatures. His Electric Bath album featured charts in 5/4 ("Indian Lady"), 7/4 ("Turkish Bath"), and 17/4 ("New Horizons"). A later chart, "Niner Two" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- As is "33 222 1 222", in 19/4.
"The first number we have is one that is based in what we call the 'traditional 19,' nineteen beats to the bar. Let me give you the subdivision here, it is 3-3-2-2-2-1-2-2-2. Of course, that's just the area code."
- The Mahavishnu Orchestra's "Birds of Fire" off the album of the same name is in 9/8. Then "Celestial Terrestrial Commuters", on the same album, is in 19/16.
- "Let Me Be Your Mirror" (by Hal David & Michel Legrand) is in 5/4.
- Outsider jazz/classical composer Louis "Moondog" Hardin frequently experimented with Uncommon Time; he was quoted as saying "I'm not gonna die in 4/4." His chamber piece "Chaconne in G Major" features an unconventional method of stringing fours together — one can make a case that the time signature is actually 8/4 or 16/8.
- His preferred method of working was to string together rounds in unconventional times. See "All Is Loneliness", which is performed in 5/4 (and was covered in 4/4, much to his annoyance, by Janis Joplin); or "Bumbo" (first song in this link), which is in 4/4 but arranged in an unconventional three-bar measure.
- The band Supersilent loves ... unusual time signatures, for example, the mid-section in 7.4. It's made all the more impressive by the fact that their entire catalogue is made up entirely of free improvisations being written on the spot, from scratch. They've never even played the same riff twice in 15 years together, let alone song, yet they still manage to modulate time signatures and polyrhythms on the fly. They are understandably tense and focused while playing live, though not beyond joking about.
- Pat Metheny embraces every time signature known to man. Not only does much of his work modulate through varying common times, but through multiple uncommons. For example, one of his earlier compositions in Pat Metheny Group, "The First Circle", cycles around a 22/8 riff with 12/8, 6/8 and 4/4 utilized. Two consecutive songs on Letter from Home are titled "45/8" after its uncommon time, and '5-5-7", after the 5/4 - 5/4 - 7/4 pattern of the main riff (the song also uses 6/4, 6/8 and 3/4.)
- Jeff Coffin likewise loves bizarre time, but is much more focused on making uncommon time groove like no other. All of the weirdness of his music can be attributed to his... unconventional phrasing. Notably, a song titled "The Mad Hatter Rides Again"" features a main melody in 17/8 (referred to by Coffin as "eight and a half-four") and a bridge in alternating 9/4 and 7/4. This is all on about two chords - thanks to the song being funk. Yep.
- Many of Alice in Chains' songs (particularly the ones composed by Jerry) have unusual time signatures. Especially notable is "Them Bones" which shifts between 7/8 and 4/4 at different points in the song.
- The landmark Technical Death Metal band Atheist created musical insanity bound to force any person familiar with music to shudder in horror at the sound of their constant use of bizarre time signatures changing at a rapid fire pace. Their second album is 9 straight songs of this trope in abundance. Try to guess the time signature at 1:24 in this song. This is Alien Geometries as applied to music.
- Tool likes to use weird time signatures with a lot of their songs. The most famous is probably "Schism" which, according to Justin Chancellor, their bassist starts out in * 6.5/8 time, and then just goes everywhere from that point. Interesting to listen to, not so much when you actually try to play it yourself.
- The intro riff is in 6/4. A bar of 5/8 and then a bar of 7/8.
- "Schism" apparently holds the record for most time signature changes in a song that appeared on the Billboard Hot 100, with 47 changes in its nearly 7 minute running time.
- "Lateralus", the title track from the same album, is another example. The chorus is in 9+8+7/8, and the rest of the song combines 5/8 and 12/16 or 12/8(both of which feel like 4/4, but looking at it rhythmically, and tempo-wise, there aren't enough 16th notes in 4/4 for some parts).
- "Lateralus" gets bonus points for following the Fibonacci Sequence.
- There's also the bridge of the song where the drums are playing 5/8 and the rest of the band is using 6/8.
- Many other Tool songs make use of 5/4, 7/4, 9/4, and changing or compound meters, including "Intolerance", "Die Eier Von Satan", "Forty Six & Two", "The Patient", "Jambi", and "Vicarious"
- The Grudge is in 5/4 and Right in Two is in 11/8.
- "Question!" by System of a Down continually shifts between 9/8, 10/8, 6/8 and 3/4, to the point that the band has had trouble playing it live.
- Soundgarden was known for their unintentional usage of unusual time signatures, most famously in their song "Spoonman".
- The main riff for the song "Ithyphallic" by Nile is in 7/4, but the song has numerous time changes and tempo changes, using 4/4, 5/4, 3/4, 6/4, and 7/4, and tempos ranging from 255 BPM to 60 BPM.
- Also, the song "Papyrus Containing the Spell to Preserve Its Possessor Against Attacks From He Who Is in the Water" has, as it's most odd time signatures, 11/8, 5/8, 9/8, 7/8, and a couple of bars of 17/16.
- Meshuggah, much like Tool (who they have toured with) love this trope, and they tend to do a lot with it. In the main riff to "New Millennium Cyanide Christ", for example, their drummer plays a slow 4/4 with his hands and a very brisk 23/16 with his feet, and it only gets more complex from there. The Other Wiki has a breakdown of its rhythmic structure. Have your headache pills ready.
- Sludge/drone/noise metal outfit Normpeterson's "Attenuation" is in 7/4 time.
- Dream Theater uses this a lot. "Learning to Live" starts in 15/8 and 7/4, and meanders around from there. Most notably, in "The Dance of Eternity" there is a section that changes almost every measure.
- For "The Dance of Eternity", there are 104 time changes in total in a song that is 6:13 long. That equates to a time change every 3.6 SECONDS!
- There are a few measures before the finale of "Home" in 19/16.
- "Breaking All Illusions" is nearly as ridiculous, with over 170 time changes in 12 minutes. At an average of a change every 4-odd seconds, it's not quite as compacted as Dance of Eternity, but close
- However, there's a fairly extended guitar solo in 4/4, so the rest of the song just might match Dance of Eternity.
- OSI sports a song that alternates between lyrical sections in 6/4 and inctrumental passages in 25/16.
- Dethklok occasionally uses odd time signatures. "I Tamper With the Evidence at the Murder Site of Odin" is primarily in 7/8, with the bridge in 4/4; and "Dethsupport" constantly switches between 6/8 and 7/8. "Go Forth and Die" features parts in 5/8.
- A lot of Black Metal bands really like this trope. It's probably harder to find a Blut aus Nord song that stays in Common Time the whole way through than it is to find one that uses this trope somewhere, especially on anything they've released in the last five years.
- Emperor's "An Elegy of Icaros" has one section where it's pretty much impossible to find two consecutive measures in the same meter signature. Most of them are truly bizarre combinations of 10, 11, and other numbers.
- Slayer does this occasionally. "Metal Storm/Face the Slayer" starts in 4/4, transitions to 9/8, and then goes back to 4/4. "At Dawn They Sleep" starts in 5/4, then transitions to 4/4. Their usage of this trope has dropped off over time.
- Used extensively by two different drummers in progressive rock: Neil Peart of Rush and Bill Bruford of Yes and King Crimson.
- Many, many progressive rock bands do uncommon time signatures; two great examples are "Siberian Khatru" by Yes (13/8, for most of it) and "Tarkus" by Emerson, Lake & Palmer (10/8 for at least two of the segments).
- Yes manage to slip this into their pop rock albums - "Changes" from 90125 is part 7/4 and part 4/4.
- Yes' "Awaken" off of Going for the One goes through ten time changes during it's opening twenty-four measures - including briefly passing through 9/32, which is just silly, really.
- Less known (for their prog rock side, anyhow) example: Ambrosia had a habit of shifting signatures. See "Time Waits for No One," "Life Beyond L.A." and "Apothecary," just to start. Even their better-known ballads aren't immune: "How Much I Feel" shifts to 7/8 briefly about three-fifths of the way through.
- It was a song from their more pop days, but Genesis' song "Turn It On Again" is in 13/8 time.
- One of the more iconic moments of an awkward time signature is definitely the aptly named " Apocalypse in 9/8" part of "Suppers Ready" by Genesis. Mind you 9/8 in classical music is mostly a compound waltz meter consisting of 3+3+3, in this piece however the time signature is an additive one consisting of 3+2+4 with the organ solo often venturing to other time signatures creating a polymeter.
- Pink Floyd's "Money" is mostly in 7/4 time. It then goes to straight 4/4 for the guitar solo, due to David Gilmour having difficulty soloing in 7/4. The change to 4/4 became iconic in its own right, and is generally regarded as the song's Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Pink Floyd also has ""Mother", "Two Suns in the Sunset" (both 5/4) and "The Happiest Days Of Our Lives" (15/8).
- Much of "Bike" is in 4/4 time, but due to extra syllables thrown irregularly into its lyrics, the song is peppered with an unpredictable pattern of 5/4, 6/4 and 7/4 bars.
- Rush makes use of several unusual time signatures. Moving Pictures alone has examples of 7/4, 5/4, and 3/4 time.
- Really, Rush is the poster child for this trope - it's all too easy to buy the folk myth that Neil Peart CAN'T play in 4/4.
- Part of Neil Peart's drum solo for many years was a section called "The Waltz", where he would play a 3/4 pattern with his feet and throw as many time signatures as he could over it with his hands. Including 4/4.
- "YYZ" has an intro in 10/8 time, but this could just be incidental, as the Morse code for YYZ (dah-dit-dah-dah, dah-dit-dah-dah, dah-dah-dit-dit) happens to fit into said time signature.
- "Subdivisions" seems to alternate between 7/8, 4/4, and 6/4 time signatures. Some time signatures only last a few bars before switching.
- Jethro Tull's hit "Living in the Past" is in 5/4.
- The "See there! A son is born" part of "Thick as a Brick" is in 5/8. A similar part in the second section of the song is 6/8, but the difference is barely noticeable. Seriously - to notice it, you'd have to be counting it.
- "Boris Dancing", is, as Ian Anderson says during the Orchestral Jethro Tull recording, "written in alternating bars of 7/8 and 9/8, making it pretty difficult to dance to... unless you're Boris Yeltsin."
- Obscure psychedelic/prog band Egg released a single called "Seven Is a Jolly Good Time", about the joys of playing in unusual time signatures. The verses are in 4/4, but the choruses are indeed 7/8, and unlike some of the prog rock out there, it's got a sense of humor and is actually pretty catchy.
- The Mars Volta really like their time signature changes too. The 'robot talk' solo in "Take The Veil Cerpin Taxt" changes time signature every bar, with most of the time signatures being subdivisions of 16.
- Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" is in 7/4 time.
- "Red", by King Crimson, has three bars of 3/4 followed by a 4/4 bar during its main riff, which uses a whole-tone scale for bonus points. And then it starts to get complicated.
- Starless on the same album has sections played in 13/8.
- However, these time shenanigans pale in comparison to the work done by King Crimson in their 80s reincarnation. In particular, the song "Discipline" involves the band's two guitarists playing patterns in slightly different time signatures, changing every few seconds, for 5 minutes. It must be heard to be believed.
- If anyone wants to try keeping track of all the time changes on Citizen Cain's Skies Darken album, best of luck.
- Avoided almost completely by some prog artists, like the Alan Parsons Project and Kevin Gilbert. Kaipa's Allman-Brothers-influenced first album is entirely in 4/4.
- "Seven Days" from Sting's album Ten Summoner's Tales is one of the few oddities in 5/4 time.
- In fact, quite a lot of Ten Summoner's Tales is in uncommon time. "St Augustine in Hell" is in 7/8 (with a spoken interlude in 3/4), and the verses of "Love Is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven)" has verses in 7/4 and choruses in straight 4/4.
- "I Hung My Head" from the album "Mercury Falling" is in 9/8 time that sounds like alternating 4/4 and 5/4.
- "Fill Her Up" from "Brand New Day" starts in 4/4 time and then shifts into 7/4 halfway through.
- In the ending of "Walking on the Moon" by The Police, the guitar and bass maintain their 4/4 riff while the drums go into a triplet-based time signature. It fits smoothly from a listening standpoint, but would be hell to play.
- Chicago's song "The Road" has continually shifting time signatures: 5/4 time, 6/4, 3/4, 4/4, etc. Actually, Chicago tended to play with time signatures a lot back in the old days, before Terry Kath's untimely death and before David Foster derailed the band into an '80s sugar-pop machine. Oh, and one of the band's most famous singles, "Colour My World", is in 12/8 time, as is the lesser-known "Goodbye" from Chicago V (aside from a brief excursion into 4/4 about two thirds of the way through the song).
- "Colour My World" is part of a longer suite called "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon", which has a few time-signature shifts. It's a very good example of the experimental tendency that gave their early material some backbone that their later work missed.
- From Chicago VII, "Aire" is 7/8 time, and "Devil's Sweet" is...mostly 12/8 with shifting signatures? It isn't 4/4, that's for sure.
- The intro to the full version of "Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is?" is in 5/4. And if memory serves correctly, "South California Purples" includes some 7/4.
- The standard blues verse is 12 bars of either 4/4, 6/8, or 12/8, unchanging. Each verse in "South California Purples" (vocal and instrumental) is 11 bars of 4/4, then three bars in 3/4, and back to four bars of 4/4 afterward. Its chords are a typical blues progression but is slightly "off blues" in the changing meter. And don't forget about the hook in "It Better End Soon"—a measure of 13/8 followed by a measure of 11/8!
- The Stranglers' "Golden Brown" has alternating bars of 6/8 and 7/8. A.k.a. waltzing three times per doing foxtrot once for that song. (so 3 x 3/4 then 4/4)
- A few songs late in The Beatles' catalogue have some rhythmical shenanigans. The bridge of "Here Comes The Sun" rotates between 11/8, 4/4, and 7/8, and "Good Morning Good Morning" has completely screwed up verses. "Happiness is a Warm Gun" (White Album) has alternating measures of 9/4 and 10/4 in one section.
- Also from the Beatles is "Strawberry Fields Forever", played mostly in 4/4 except for "Nothing to get hung about" in 6/4 and "Strawberry fields for-" in 3/8, with "ever" back in 4/4.
- "All You Need Is Love" alternates between 7/4 during the verses and 4/4 in the chorus.
- We Can Work It Out has 4/4 verses, 2/2 (alla breve) chorus and 3/4 bridges. None of these is particularly weird on its own but they shift between them pretty rapidly.
- Frank Zappa would train his musicians to shift time signatures at a second's notice - something he'd occasionally use to mess with guest artists who thought they were going to play a straight 4/4.
- The intro to The Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post" is in 11/4 (or 3+3+3+2/4) time.
- Toto's song "Hold the Line" is in 6/8, but alternates every measure between a double waltz (ONE, two three, ONE, two, three) and a triple march (ONE, two, ONE, two, ONE, two).
- "Modern Man" from Arcade Fire's The Suburbs throws in a few cheeky bars of 5/4 every now and again - with the accent on the drums coming half a beat before the first beat of the next bar, just to confuse you even more.
- The standard pattern of the Nine Inch Nails song "March of the Pigs" is three bars of 7/8 followed by bar of 4/4 time. Similarly, most of "The Becoming" takes the form of a bar of 7/4 followed by a bar of 6/4.
- Radiohead have written quite a few songs in 5/4, including "15 Step". "Everything In Its Right Place" and "Go to Sleep" are in 10/4, and the second section of "Paranoid Android" is in 7/8.
- The twinkly guitar riff in "Let Down" is played in 5/4, while the rest is played in 4/4. Due to an additional error while mixing the band joins in at a really awkward and unexpected time, but it sounded cool so they left it in. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a bugger to recreate live and they've very rarely played it during tours as a result.
- Although not strictly uncommon time, the drums and guitar in "How To Disappear Completely" are in straight waltz time, while the bass plays in 4/4.
- Also by Radiohead is "Pyramid Song", written in... well, nobody's quite sure yet. (Quite deviously, once the drums come in, it turns out to be a perversion of 4/4 accomplished by the piano and drums putting the emphasis in strange places.)
- Similarly, though the riff in "Myxomatosis" technically works out to 4/4 - more accurately 16/8 - the rhythm is cut up into awkward jerky phrases that can be quite off putting. I believe it's counted as 3+3+6+4.
- The Kid A song "In Limbo" uses... several time signatures... simultaneously
- The song "You" has three bars of 6/8 followed by one bar of 5/8, a phrase which repeats throughout the song. Ironically, this song is on their least experimental album which is highly unpopular amongst fans, Pablo Honey.
- And then there's "Morning Bell", which seems to be two bars of 3/4 followed by one of 4/4. (It could also be counted as simply being in 5/4).
- The eponymous song from Incubus' album Make Yourself alternates between one measure of 7/4 and two measures of 4/4.
- Coldplay's song "Glass of Water" is written in 7/4 time.
- Cream's "White Room" has an intro and bridge in 5/4. The verses are in Common Time.
- "Possum Kingdom" by The Toadies switches every measure between 7/4 and 8/4.
- Led Zeppelin's "The Crunge" from Houses of the Holy started off in 9/8 (4/8+ 5/8) and mixed it up from there.
- "Black Dog" has guitar and bass in 4/4, while the drums play in 5/4.
- Talking Heads came up with "Animals" from their album Fear of Music, which boasts verses in 5/4 and choruses with three measures of 7/4, followed by one measure of 6/4 just to screw with you. Don't worry, though, the intro and strange ritualistic chant outro are in 4/4.
- Green Day uses two bars of 4/4 followed by two bars of 7/8 for the verses of their song "Before the Lobotomy." The choruses of that same song are entirely in 7/8.
- Kaizers Orchestra's signature style uses uncommon time a lot; it was outright pointed out in "Femtakt filosofi" from Violeta Violeta Volume I. The title translates to "Philosophy in 5/4".
- PJ Harvey's "Water" is effectively a march in 5/4.
- Here's a relatively simple example in comparison to some of this chaos: During the verses of "That's What You Get" by Paramore, the drummer plays in 4/4 under instruments and vocalist running 3/4.
- Stone Temple Pilots do something similar with "Vasoline" (drummer in 4/4, guitar and bass in 3/4), and, to return us to the chaos, Battles' does this in "Ddiamondd" to ludicrous levels, with the guitar, bass, and vocalist in 7/4 time for two measures, before shifting to 4/4 time for four measures...while the drummer is playing 15/8 under them the entire time.
- Five Iron Frenzy's Car is in 5/4 with an occasional 6/4 at the end of a phrase.
- Some of the more brutal tracks like "Up the Neck" on the first Pretenders album use key signatures such as 13/4 and 27/4
- Juliana Hatfield's "Spin The Bottle" is in 5/4 time.
- Canadian indie rock band Women are rather fond of odd time signatures. They have songs in 13/8 and 7/4, and "Shaking Hand" has an opening riff that cycles through one bar in 13/8 and two bars of 4/4, and a closing section that cycles through one bar each of 3/4, 5/8, 3/4, 3/4, and 3/8.
- Broken Social Scene has "7/4 (Shoreline)".
- "Math rock" is an entire subgenre named after its fondness for this trope.
- "Get On" by Covenant seems to be in 4/4 at first, but skips a beat every other measure, making it 7/4.
- OK Go's "WTF?" is in 5/4.
- "Negative" by Mansun is in 5/4.
- "Hook in Her Head" by Throwing Muses is in 5/4.
- Pete Townshend's "Face Dances Part 2" is in 5/4.
- Love Is Like A Bottle Of Gin from 69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields is written in 21/8. That is, until the final measure when the meter breaks for the line, "a bottle of gin is not like love."
- Juice Leskinen's Rampojen valssi (Waltz of the Cripples) is in 5/4.
- Paul Simon is an odd inversion of this. His songs are usually in a regular meter, but his lyrics are insanely syncopated.
- My Bloody Valentine's "Feed Me with Your Kiss" has a main riff with one bar in 5/4, then another bar in 3/4, then one bar in a varying meter signature. It's almost impossible to keep track of unless you memorise the patterns. (The usual pattern is 4/4, then 5/4, then 6/4, then 8/4, but other patterns are used, such as 4/4 then 8/4, or, at the end of the song, one each of each meter signature from 4/4 up to 10/4).
Other Media Examples:
Anime and Manga
- In Death Note, the first section of L's theme alternates time signatures for each measure in patterns of 4: the first measure is 7/8, the second is 3/4, the third is 7/8, and the fourth is 4/4. This rather unique pattern is repeated in Near's theme, further cementing the connection between the two.
- "7 Minutes" from the Cowboy Bebop movie is not only just under 7 minutes long, it spends a lot of time Epic Rocking in 7/4 (with interludes in 4/4).
- A couple of character songs from Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni have sections written in Uncommon Time, namely, Takano Miyo's "Bon ~Karma~" and Fuurude Rika's "Mugen Kairou". "Mugen Kairou" is in 5/4 except for its bridge and chorus, which is in 3/4; while the verse of "Bon ~Karma~" alternates between 3/4 and 4/4 measures -significant in that Miyo's name is written with the kanji for 3 and 4.
- The "Mexican Dance" in Aaron Copland's Billy the Kid music is in 5/8, alternating with the occasional bar of 4/8.
- In one Foxtrot strip, Jason changes all of Peter's guitar music to 400,000/4 time, so when Peter counts off, he has to go all the way to 400,000 before he can begin playing.
- The Uruk-Hai theme from Howard Shore's The Lord of the Rings score, found within the track "Amon Hen" on the Fellowship OST, has 5/4 time. Shore explained that he was aiming to give Saruman's army a mechanical-sounding accompaniment.
- The chorus of "Now You're A Man" from Orgazmo is in 7/4. It was almost like an inside joke to jack up the irony of so needlessly using anything but 4/4 in such a cheesy song.
- The DVD insert for one pressing of This Is Spinal Tap state that one of the band's drummers quit, saying he "couldn't take this 4/4 shit".
- The theme to John Carpenter 's Halloween 1978 was written in a 5/4 meter.
- "Tubular Bells" from The Exorcist uses three measures of 7/8 against one measure of 9(2+2+3+2)/8.
- Bane's Leitmotif, "Gotham's Reckoning", is also in 5/4 time, which fits neatly with the prisoners' chant, "Deshi, deshi, basara, basara".
- Much of Riichiro Manabe's scores during the 1970s, including Godzilla Vs Hedorah's score used odd time signatures.
- Hans Zimmer's theme for Angels and Demons, 160 BPM was written in 7/8 with sections of 4/4 and 6/8.
- "Walk To The Bunkhouse" in Aaron Copland's music for the movie The Red Pony has bars alternating between 3/4 and 2/4.
- The original version of the theme music to The Bill was in 7/4. Listen to it here.
- The theme to the Mission: Impossible TV series is in 5/4. It was changed to 4/4 for the movies.
- The music playing as the "ghosts" shimmer into Cybermen in the Doctor Who episode "Army of Ghosts", is in 5/4.
- The Eleventh Doctor's theme is almost entirely in 7/4. 7 + 4= 11.
- The reimagined Battlestar Galactica score by Bear McCreary uses some unusual time signatures for leitmotifs. The most prominent is Six's theme, which is in 9/8 time.
- The theme song to Xena is in 7/8 time with a break around the bridge of 9/8.
- Harry Belefonte's "Turn The World Around", which premiered on The Muppet Show, is in 5/4.
- Candide has "The Ballad of Eldorado" in 5/8, and "Words, Words, Words" in 7/8, as well as "Oh Happy We" in 7/4 (although the measures are counted as alternating measures of 4/4 and 3/4).
- MOD Tracker formats don't really have time signatures for the composer to be concerned about. Composing in such programs is more about getting things to sound good when played by the computer. Some files even change the speed of the song every couple of lines, making it at the very least, very difficult for a time signature to be deduced.
- "Danger Zone" by HMW uses a 5/4 against 3/4 melody on top of a 4/4 backbeat.
- Animusic's "Starship Groove" is in 7/4; the beacons on the sides of the stage flash in time to the beat.
- Vocaloid Megurine Luka's song "7/8" is written in... guess.
- The same producer also wrote Luka's song "Significance of Existence" in 5/4.
- For some reason, Andrew Lloyd Webber really likes doing this:
- "Thank Goodness" in Wicked sounds like mostly 5/8. "I Couldn't Be Happier" is in 5/8 mixed with 6/8, 3/4, 4/4, 2/4 and other time signatures.
- Leonard Bernstein's Mass has some very unusual time signatures: 5/8 for "Gloria Tibi," 7/8 (when it's not switching rapidly between 2/4 and 3/8) for "God Said," a swinging, finger-snapping 5/4 for the "Mea culpa" section of "Confiteor," and the 9/8 of "In Nomine Patris" is divided into 3+2+2+2 beats instead of the usual 3+3+3.
- Speaking of Bernstein ... "America" from West Side Story alternates between a compound duple (6/8-ish) and triple (3/4-ish) meter on a measure-by-measure basis. The More You Know: when a song contains something that sounds like a rhythmic shift but doesn't print a time-signature change, it's called a "hemiola."
- Stephen Sondheim loves him some uncommon time.
- "Sensitivity" from Once Upon A Mattress is in 5/4.
- "Feelings" from The Apple Tree in 9 (3+ 2+ 2+ 2).
- "What Does He Want Of Me?" from Man Of La Mancha is in 7/8.
- "Superboy and the Invisible Girl" from Next To Normal is 6/8 followed by 5/8 most of the time.
- The refrain of "Let Life Happen" from Vanities has a 4/4 against 5/4 meter. The verse of "Cute Boys with Short Haircuts" follows an even more irregular pattern; 4/4+5/4->4/4+7/4->4/4+5/4.
- A section of "The Barricade" in Les Misérables (you at the barricade listen to this...) changes its time signature every measure (6/8, 9/8, 9/8, 6/8, 12/8, IIRC).
- "On the Willows" from Godspell is in 5/4, and Alas For You from the same show is... all over the place.
- "O Ma Ley" from Amaluna is in 7/8 overall, with a few segments in (2+2+3+2+3+2)/8.
- In Pippin, "Welcome Home" is in 5/4.
- In I Can Get It For You Wholesale, "What Are They Doing To Us Now?" is largely in 5/4.
- In Touhou, Part of "Hartmann's Youkai Girl" is in 7/8. The rest is in Common Time.
- Similarly, the intro of "U.N. Owen Was Her?" is in 5/4, with the rest of the song played in common time.
- "Rural Makai City Esoterica" is in 11/4, constantly switching between (5+6)/4 and (6+5)/4.
- In Touhou 11, the first part of "Last Remote" is in 6/4, while "Hellfire Mantle" alternates between 10/4 and 3/4. ZUN seems to be a fan of oddball time signatures.
- Like "Makai City", the ending theme to Imperishable Night is in 17/8, switching between signatures of 9 and 8.
- Part of "Lunar Clock~ Luna Dial" is even in 6/4.
- The Nippius level of Jazz Jackrabbit has several shifting time signatures in it.
- Given Tim Follin's progressive rock influences, it's no surprise that his video game music sometimes uses unusual time signatures. For just one example, the beach theme from Plok starts out in 7/8, shifts to 4/4, and then shifts back to 7/8.
- The obligatory Nobuo Uematsu section:
- Final Fantasy VIII used 5/4 time for, "Don't Be Afraid", its normal combat music. The boss music "Force Your Way", by contrast, is mostly in 4/4 but has a bar in 5/4 and one in 6/4.
- While most of "One-Winged Angel" from Final Fantasy VII is in 4/4, the transition between the intro and the main body of the song has a few measures in 7/8. It's especially notable in the Advent Children version because the time signature shift is punctuated by the sudden entry of electric guitars and percussion, making the section the musical equivalent of a boot to the head.
- Additionally, the chocobo theme from Final Fantasy VII was in 5/4, swung. Its title "Cinco de Chocobo" alludes to this. (It's a pretty clear homage to Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" - the rhythms are exactly the same).
- The fourth (and final) movement of "Dancing Mad", the Final Boss theme from Final Fantasy VI, is a remix of Kefka's Leitmotif that alternates between 4/4 and 7/8 time, as well as a few measures in 2/2. The chaotic feeling it creates fits Kefka very well.
- Nobuo Uematsu used several unconventional rhythms in Final Fantasy VI's music; the main boss theme is 16-beat patterns (four Threes followed by two Twos - or two bars of 6/8 plus a bar of 4/8) for much of the music, and the AtmaWeapon/Goddess Statue fight music is in eight-beat patterns (two Threes followed by a Two). Both are great tension-building rhythms, and make for good listening even when you hear the things many times and often for multiple iterations in a single fight.
- Hey, the Esper theme ("Another World of Beasts")! 7/4!
- Final Fantasy IX has "Run!" which plays whenever the party must escape a place within a time limit. It has three bars of 5/4 + two of 6/8 for the main melody, and uses 4/4 + 7/8 in the mid parts. The frequency of the time changes combined with the overall speed of the song is positively frantic - the player knows he's got to get out now.
- Final Fantasy X had its share as well. For instance, in the tune "Decisive Battle," the time signature shifts around like crazy. There are long sections in common time signatures like 3/4 and 4/4, but when they start changing every couple bars and throwing in 2/4 and 6/4, things get a little complicated.
- Final Fantasy IV has "The Red Wings", part of which is in 7/4.
- The Factory theme in Super Mario RPG has a time signature of 13/8.
- The theme from Bowser's Castle in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is in 7/8 time, except for the intro.
- The first level theme from the 1989 Namco shmup Burning Force alternates between 7/8 and 4/4 time, much like the above-mentioned beach theme from Plok. Take a listen.
- A couple of examples from Knights in the Nightmare— "Clash with the Dark King Zolgonark" is written in 5/4, while "Clash with the Fallen Angel Melissa" is written in half 7/8 and half 4/4.
- In Mother 3, you can do combos by tapping the attack button in time with the battle music's rhythm after your attack lands. This grows difficult later in the game; for instance, "Strong One" is in 15/8 time, while "Masked Man" variation skips a beat and becomes 29/16 time.
- In Iji's soundtrack, "Tor" uses 7/4 and 5/4 time, while "Seven Four" is named after the time signature.
- Chrono Trigger: The "Sealed Door" (the music that plays when you use a MacGuffin on certain areas) starts in 5/4 time before going to 6/8.
- The Chrono Cross soundtrack frequently experiments in polyrhythm and unusual meter - "Snakebone Manor" is in 5/8 and 7/8 time, for instance. The most cited example is the game's love-it-or-hate-it main battle theme, "Hurricane" - a polyrhythm of 9/8, 3/4, 4/4, and 5/4 times.
- The alert theme from Metal Gear 2, and the song "Holic" from Beatmania IIDX and Dance Dance Revolution, both Konami games, are in 7/8 time. The latter later changes to 7/4 and then 4/4. The Cut Song "Life" from Silent Hill 3 is also 7/8.
- 100% minimoo-G is even worse. Songs in IIDX usually have the proper markings for measures, even if they're in a non-4/4 time signature or change signature at some point. This song? NO MARKINGS.
- "Burning Heat!" is mostly in 12/8 time, with the occasional single measure of 18/8.
- "DAY DREAM" from GuitarFreaks and drummania is mostly in 17/16.
- "Leonidas" from Halo 2 goes 2*(6/4 + 5/4) + 4/4 + 13/8 + 6/4 . The main theme of "Earth City is in 13/8, although the rest of the song is in a more conventional 6/8.
- Zeldrin Starport in Ratchet And Clank Up Your Arsenal switches between 11/8 and Common Time along with some of David Bergeaud's other tracks in the game such as Planet Aridia.
- The Ridley battle theme from the Metroid series is in 5/8, with short sections in 4/8 and 3/8.
- And the Mother Brain theme in Super Metroid is in 7/4.
- Dreatnaut's theme from Runescape is 5/8. However, that theme is very disorienting so it's easy to lose beat.
- Most of the music in Twisted Metal: Black uses uncommon or mixed time signatures. Prison Passage uses 7/8, 5/8, and even 17/16 and 19/16. "Darkness Prevails"(the Freeway battle theme) is 5/4. Minion's theme rotatez between 7/4, 4/4, 7/8+5/8, and 3/4.
- "Suicide Mission," one of the crown jewels of the Mass Effect 2 soundtrack, combines ethereal synths, Orchestral Bombing and Ominous Choral Chanting in a heavy, deliberate 7/4.
- Kingdom Hearts 1, "Night of Fate." Takes the cake by seeming to be in a duple meter (10/4), but actually being in compound: "1&a 2&a 3& 4&." This is also a good example of why numerically large timesigs are hard to read and understand; this song would be easier to play if it was rendered as two measures, one of 6/8 and one of 4/8.
- "Hollow Bastion" from the first game is also in 5/4.
- The Metal Slug series seems to have made this into a composer in-joke. Most installments include a version of the song Steel Beast. No two versions share a time signature. (Except 2 and 3)
- "Chomber" from Marathon is in 7/4 time, has a seven-letter title, and plays on the seventh level of the game.
- Kirby Super Star has Marx's Theme, which changes time signature 14 times in under a minute. Appropriate for a character who has gone completely mad with power.
- The Milky Way Wishes Overworld Theme is primarily in 7/8 with some 8/8 (4/4) to complete melodies, while the final part is in 7/4. Yup.
- The boss theme from Syphon Filter 2 has a 5/8 meter. The French terrorists' theme in The Omega Strain is a 3*5/4 against 12/8 march.
- The final boss theme from Contra jumps gleefully from 11/8 to 5/8 to 6/8 to 4/4 to 7/8 and back to 11/8. It's like Dream Theater had a pop at videogame music.
- In the Kanto Gym Leader battle theme from Pokemon Red And Blue, the first four bars after the intro are played in 7/4 before the tune switches to Common Time.
- Hidden Land from Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness is primarily in 6/4, with a bar of 5/4 followed by a bar of 7/4 followed by 6/4 again.
- Craggy Coast from the same game is partially in 5/4 and partially in 12/8.
- The theme to the first stage from Klonoa, "The Windmill Song", is written in 6/8 time, but occasionally switches to 5/8.
- Crystal Snail's theme from Mega Man X 2 switches between 13/8 and 6/8 time.
- The middle eight in the Gran Turismo 5 version of "Moon Over the Castle" is in (3+4+3+4.5)/4
- The World Of Warcraft raid Trial of the Crusader was often criticized for its unoriginality, but one of the main musical themes for it had an original time signature of 11/4.
- The Cross Examination theme from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All is written in alternating measures of 7/8 and 13/16, and then 13/16 and 12/16 (3/4).
- Blockade, from the identically-named fourth mission in Ace Combat 04, is in 7/8.
- Also, there's Tango Line, in (5+6)/8 with single bars of 4/4 between sections.
- Sagat's theme from Street Fighter II is in...11/4? There's no real way to break it down otherwise; the melody, the bass line, and the fill all have different sub-phrase patterns.
- "Space Walk", the second stage theme from Thunder Force IV, is all over the place. Three measures of 7/8 followed by one measure of 6/8... and then a bridge in 4/4.
- Perhaps not surprisingly, quite a few commenters on YouTube videos of "Space Walk" have said it reminded them of Sagat's theme...
- The Levias Battle Theme from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is in 6/4 time.
- Stagnox's Theme from The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks changes time signatures A LOT. It usually remains in 7/8, but switches to 3/4 and a few other time signatures as well.
- In Final Fantasy Tactics, Trisection starts in 12/8, moves to 5/8, alternates between 7/8 and 5/8 a couple of times, goes back to 12/8 for a bar of percussion only, returns to 5/8, does another bar of 12/8 percussion, then loops.
- From The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, we have Ganondorf's battle music. It starts out in 4/4, then alternates between 13/16 and 10/16.
- "Subterranean Hell" from Castlevania Dawn Of Sorrow starts out in 7/4 and then alternates between 6/4 and 5/4.
- Songs To Wear Pants To song "Never" is in 5/4 time; the time signature being specifically part of the song's request.
- Mazedude's "Microscopism" is in an incredibly bizarre 7.5/8 (15/16) time signature.
- Only if you believe in reducing fractions, which - to the consternation of mathematicians everywhere - ain't the right thing for a musician to do. 7.5/8 looks impossible (and is), but 15/16 is just 5/4 with triplets (1&a 2&a 3&a 4&a 5&a).
- Just to clarify: the song is not in triple meter. Having said that, it's also not in a single coherent time signature: it's a repeating pattern of 4/4 and 2+2+3/8.
- The Broken Clock, a piece in Homestuck's discography, is written in 13/8 (it'd be 13/4, except the composer "didn't really plan for it" and—taking a little jab at the below—"sometimes I like to put possible playability/sheet music over numerical references for the sake of references"). Given that the album it's in boasts "time shenanigans", this is just a more literal interpretation of the theme.
- Then there's "Judgment Day", 13/4 at 413 bpm (only the drums sound as fast as this would imply, but catching the beat is still not so easy).
- The main theme of Meat Boy and Super Meat Boy is in 7/4 time, as is the world-select version in Super Meat Boy.
- Pomplamoose's cover of "My Favorite Things" starts in 5/4 as a tribute to Brubeck and mostly keeps that time signature in the verses before switching to 3/4.
- The main theme for Pixar's The Incredibles is in 5/4 (the one you hear when the credits begins).
- The theme song for Disney's Doug is in 7/4.
- The main theme of the tv show Re Boot is also 5/4.
- This opening to ABC's 4:30 Movie is partially composed in 5/8 time.
- Tom Hedden's "A New Game" for NFL Films is primarily in 15/8.
- Finnish children's song Omituisten otusten kerho (Club of Weird Creatures) has intro in 3/8, chorus 9/8 and 11/8 alternatively with drums 5/4, and verses in 6/8.