Uncommon Time

Mike Portnoy going over the time signatures to "The Dance of Eternity". Or as he calls it, just another Dream Theater song.

"At this very moment, on stage, we have drummer A playing in 7/8, drummer B playing in 3/4, the bass playing in 3/4, the organ playing in 5/8, the tambourine playing in 3/4, and the alto sax blowing his nose."

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, which makes these useful meters for marches; two beats per measure equals one measure per pair of steps. 3/4, sometimes called "three-quarter time" and the canonical meter for waltzes, is also fairly intuitive - if you've ever been taught to waltz 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, 9/8 and such, which don't have the same rhythms as Common Time, but can still be counted out fairly easily. (Note that 9/8, depending on how it is divided, can be either an example of this trope or an aversion).

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. It can be done throughout the length of an entire song, or used as an effect in an otherwise-common-time song.

(For those who have difficulty determining the meter of a song, try paying attention to its percussion track: In many songs the bass and snare drums are perfectly timed with each beat, because this establishes a metronome that the other singers/players rely on to keep their parts of the song in sync to. This, of course, does not help when the song uses polyrhythms (that is, having different instruments playing in different time signatures, as per the page quote), as bands such as Meshuggah are known for).

This trope is heavily associated with the Math Rock, Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal, and Technical Death Metal genres, to the point where there are only a handful of prominent acts in any of these genres who have never used it. It is also incredibly common in modern Classical Music, which is often credited as being due to the influence of Igor Stravinsky, particularly in The Rite of Spring. (Stravinsky was a rather large influence on many of these prog groups as well).

See also The Other Wiki's list of musical works in unusual time signatures.

    Useful Notes 
  • 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/crotchets." 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 (6/8 is broken up into 3+3, while 3/4 is broken up into 1+1+1). 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 crotchets (where five quintuplets equal four regular crotchets) 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 - unless you're trying to become gods in the prog-geek world, in which case, hey, go ahead and write your verses out in 32/4 (4+4+4+4+4+4+4+4).


Examples:

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    Christian 
  • 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 and Christian praise song 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 4˝/4 time — it doesn't actually have a time signature.
    • Likewise with "Of the Father's Love Begotten".

    Classical 
  • 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 also has measures in 7/16, 9/8, and 5˝/8 (which is essentially 11/16).
  • 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.
  • The fourth movement (well, second half of the second movement) of Camille Saint-Saëns' Symphony #3 starts in 6/4 time and moves several times between 6/4, 9/4, 3/4, and 4/4.
  • 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.
    • "Profanation" from Symphony No. 1 shifts meters almost constantly. The first theme mixes 6/8, 8/8 and 7/8 (the latter two are both divided into three beats).
    • In "Kaddish" (Symphony No. 3), the chorus begins singing "Kaddish 1" in 7/8 alternating with 3/4, with a later section in 8/8 (3 + 2 + 3). "Kaddish 2" begins and ends in 5/8, with a middle section in 5/16. "Kaddish 3" has a middle section in 7/8. The finale is mostly in 7/8 (2/4 + 3/8) and 7/4 (4/4 + 3/4).
    • Leonard Bernstein's music for On the Waterfront includes a very fast, drum-heavy theme whose bars alternate between alla breve and 3/4.
    • "Turkey Trot" from the Divertimento for Orchestra alternates bars of alla breve and 3/4.
    • The "Prelude" theme from "Prelude, Fugue and Riffs" switches between 4/4 (=8/8), 3/4 (=6/8), 5/8, 7/8 and 9/8, though its barlines get translated into Common Time when it reappears in the "Fugue."
  • 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 Adčs'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.
  • The fourth movement of Gustav Mahler's Symphony #2 "Resurrection" switches time signatures almost continuously...and imperceptibly.
  • 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.
  • 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. In his original composition, instead of alternating between 5/4 and 6/4, each bar of the Promenade consisted of 11/4. This was simplified by a student of his contemporary Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (who also renotated some examples of this from Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov in straight 2/4) and has been the norm for subsequent publications. Wordof God says that this meter is supposed to simulate a natural walking pattern.
  • 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.
    • The finale of Prokofiev's Violin Concerto no. 2 in G minor has significant passages in 7/4 and 5/4.
  • In Béla Bartók's music, this frequently occurs under the heading "Bulgarian Rhythm":
    • The Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm from Mikrokosmos 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.
    • The Scherzo alla bulgarese from the Fifth String Quartet is in (4+2+3)/8; its trio varies between (3+2+2+3)/8, (2+3+2+3)/8 and (2+3+3+2)/8, but is really too fast for the average listener to bother counting metrical divisions.
    • The Intermezzo interrotto from the Concerto for Orchestra has a main theme alternating between 2/4 and 5/8. It rather sneakily shifts into Common Time after a modulation, but this turns out to be the setup for a musical joke.
  • 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.
  • Most of the later works of Olivier Messiaen change the time signature in every measure. (!) He mostly used extremely uncommon times like (3+2+2)/32, (2+2+3)/16 and mixed them with more common ones like 2/8 or 3/8.
  • Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem" has "Dies irae" in 7/4, "Confutatis" in 5/4, and "Agnus Dei" in 5/16.
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique" symphony has the second movement in 5/4.
  • In Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, the instrumental "Tanz" alternates bars of 4/4 with bars of 3/8.

    Country/Bluegrass 
  • 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 on the verses, but mostly returns to 4/4 for the chorus.
  • "Mine Would Be You" by Blake Shelton is in 7/4 on the verses.
  • "Sand Dollar" by the progressive bluegrass band The String Cheese Incident is in 5/4, and "Turn This Around" alternates 8/4 and 7/4 bars at one point.
  • "Swimming in Champagne" by Eric Heatherly is in 8/8 (3+3+2).

    Electronic 
  • 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. They also use a certain polyrhythm, in which the song 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.
    • Averted by Confield, which is probably one of the weirdest albums in the world but manages to stay in common time. "Gantz Graf" is also confoundingnote  but is also in 4/4 (a lone hi-hat click is your only hint.)
    • 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.
  • Lamb has an entire album dedicated to this trope called "Fear of Fours."
  • 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).
  • "Robotic Apocalypse" by Cyborganic Zombie has the drum track alternating 3 bars in 5/4 with three in 3/4, and everything else on top in 4/4.
  • 'So Damn Beautiful (Amethyst Mix)' by Polaroid is in 3/4 — not particularly out of the ordinary, except that it exists in a genre where everything is in 4/4 because it's supposed to be crossfaded with other tracks.
  • Four Tet's "Liquefaction" starts out with a synth loop in 5/8, then a drum groove comes in over it in 6/8.
  • Oneohtrix Point Never's "Cryo" is in 17/16.

    Folk and Blues 
  • 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.
    • Same with Bosnian music. The traditional L'jepi li su mostarski ducani, for example, is in various divisions of 9/4 and 9/8, like 2+2+2+3/8 and 3+2+4/4.
  • 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.
    • Perhaps the ruler of all songs listed here is Sufjan's "Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois," which is mostly in 65/16 (18+17+17+13/16) (source).
    • Subverted in "Happy Family Christmas", which starts by him counting "one-two-and-one-two-three-four," implying 7/8 time, but then continues as a 4/4 song.
    • "The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders" constantly switches from 11/4 (5+6) to 5/4.
  • 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. Their version of "Tam Lin" alternates between 7/4 and 6/4.
  • 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.
  • "Beekeeper" by Aoife O'Donovan is in 7/4.
  • "Barrett's Privateers" by Stan Rogers is mostly in 4/4, but switches to 5/4 for one measure during each verse and chorus.
  • Hozier's "From Eden" is in 5/4.

    Hip Hop 
  • DJ Shadow's "Changeling / Transmission 1" is in 7/4. "Stem/Long Stem" from the same album has at least one bar of 3/4.
  • The Gorillaz song "5/4" features a polyrhythm of 5/4 in the guitars and 4/4 in the drums.
  • Eminem's "Underground" is in 5/8.
  • Flobots' "The Rhythm Method" jumps between 6/8 and 7/8.
  • OutKast's "Hey Ya!" is in some fairly strange meter signature. It has 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.
  • Andrew Huang, rapper of YouTube fame, has a song titled "Andrew Huang Raps in 15/8" in... well, you know. The same goes for his "Andrew Huang Raps in 5/4", and "Alphabetical 26-Genre Song" uses something at least as odd in its "math metal" section.
  • This live-recorded rap is in 7/4.
  • YouTube rapper None Like Joshua recorded this over a 7/4 Venetian Snares tune.
  • YouTube's Milton Coffee made this in 7/8.
  • "Grammy Family" by Consequence featuring DJ Khaled, John Legend, and Kanye West cycles five bars of 4/4 and can thus be tracked out as 10/2 or 20/4. (The first couple of these are pretty disorienting, too.) While questionably uncommon for music as a whole, even this much is rare in rap.
  • The main groove in "Message II (Survival)" by Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five is 5/8 against 4/4.
  • Madvillain's "Strange Ways" has a slow bit in 5/4, as in the Gentle Giant song it's sampled from ("Funny Ways").
  • clipping's "Story 2" adds an extra beat to the time signature every eight bars (so you get eight bars of 3/4, eight bars of 4/4, eight bars of 5/4, etc.). Midway through the song, this pattern starts over in double time.

    Jazz 
  • 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" by Dave Brubeck 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"). "Bulgarian Bulge" (see the entry on Bulgarian folk music below) is in 33/16. A later chart, "Niner Two" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, as is "33 222 1 222", in 19/8.
    "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."
  • Jazz pianist/composer David Benoit has stated he likes to have at least one song per each of his albums use a time signature other than 4/4. For instance, "Wistful Thinking" flips between 7/8 and 4/4, as does "Yusuke The Ghost". "One Dream At A Time" is in 9/8.
  • Mahavishnu Orchestra's "Vital Transformation" from The Inner Mounting Flame is mostly in 9/8, as is the title track from Birds of Fire. Then "Celestial Terrestrial Commuters", on the latter album, is in 19/16, while "The Dance of Maya" from the former album opens with a segment in (3+4+3)/4 or 10/4 before switching to a segment in (3+3+3+3+3+3+2)/8 or 20/8, before it overlays the two in a particularly confusing segment. This is far from an exhaustive list, even on these two albums; the first Mahavishnu Orchestra (which also recorded The Lost Trident Sessions) was pretty much one of those bands that preferred to use compound meters to anything resembling Common Time. There are at most a handful of tracks in their recorded output that don't use compound meters.
  • "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 (which, for an exercise in how far they could stretch the concept, is pretty catchy); 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. 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.
  • Hank Levy's "Time for a Change" is entirely in 9/4 (2+2+3+2/4).
  • Steely Dan's "Aja". That Other Wiki sums up the shenanigans in the song's instrumental break:
    The first part goes on for 17 bars, one in 2/4, as the other musicians vamp on staccato chords beneath. The interlude chords briefly return, and Gadd resumes keep the beat, with a few more flourishes, while Shorter's solo continues. Then the vamp and drum solo resume for another 17-bar section, this one including one bar in 3/4, that ends with a descending chord progression that takes us back into the intro.
The last word of the chorus ("you") also inserts 3/4 into an otherwise 4/4 section.

    Metal 
  • Mathcore band The Number Twelve Looks Like You loves this. The song "Grandfather" alone includes 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 7/4, 11/8, and 13/4.
  • 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 8 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 band has said that a lot of this was unintentional — they would just mess around until they found something that sounded good, and they wouldn't realize until much later that the song was actually in 7/4 or 9/8.
  • 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.
  • Sludge/drone/noise metal outfit Normpeterson's "Attenuation" is in 7/4 time.
  • Underoath's "We Are the Involuntary" jumps between 5/4, 4/4, and 3/4.
    • "The Created Void" is in 5/4 with some 3/4.
  • Between the Buried and Me lives for this trope, their songs normally jumping among several time signatures. Perhaps most notably, "Selkies - The Endless Obsession" has mostly 13/8 verses, and "Prequel to the Sequel" includes a 5/4 polka section.
    • "White Walls" really takes the cake, though: the main riff is in 24.5/4 ([3+4+2+2.5+3+4+2+4]/4) and the song rarely, if ever, stays in the same time signature for a full minute.
  • 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. There is a breather of a guitar solo in 4/4 in the middle, though.
    • Hell, a majority of their longer songs have instrumental sections that change time signature every measure.
  • John Petrucci's 2005 solo album Suspended Animation has this in nearly every song. Special props go to "Glasgow Kiss", which has a section where the band plays in 12/8, but two of the guitars play in 9/8. And the sheet music notates it as such.
  • OSI sports a song that alternates between lyrical sections in 6/4 and instrumental passages in 25/16.
  • 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.
    • Mayhem's "Slaughter of Dreams" is mostly in 7/4, which isn't all that surprising since it's from their days as a progressive black metal band, but what is susprising is that "Deathcrush" and "Chainsaw Gutsfuck", both from the incredibly primitive Deathcrush EP, both have segments in 5/4.
    • 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. This segment can be heard starting at 1:04 and at the end of the song. "Sworn", from the same album, does something similar. One of the Uncommon Time segment begins at 1:51. This also shows up in several songs on Prometheus, like "The Tongue of Fire" and "He Who Sought the Fire".
  • 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.
  • Cain's Offering's "Morpheus In A Masquerade" is mainly in 6/4 timing, but there's a section where it changes to 4/4 and then 5/4, before returning back to 6/4.
  • Andorran band Persefone has their work full of this, everyone of their songs is full of uncommon times and changes on the signature time that they have been considered by some people as an Extreme version of Dream Theater, notable examples "Shin-ken Part 1" from their 3rd album Shin-Ken or "Returning to the Source" from their 4th album Spiritual Migration.
  • Deathspell Omega does this a lot. It's part of what makes their sound so impenetrable.
  • One of the riffs in Astarte's "Queen of the Damned" is in 5/4. Earlier albums by the band use this trope more extensively; for example, "Furious Animosity", the first song on Rise from Within, has a section that has two 5/4 measures followed by a 6/4 measure, then later, a 5/4 measure followed by a 4/4 measure followed by another 5/4 measure and then three 4/4 measures. Other songs on the album use this trope too, though not to this extent.
  • The second half of Panopticon's "The Long Road, Pt. II: Capricious Miles" is in 7/4.
  • Japanese Avant-Garde Metal band Sigh use this pretty frequently. For example, 7/4 segments (or multiples thereof) show up in "Izuna", "Intro: Soushiki", "Outro: Higeki", "Hail Horror Hail", "42 49", "A Sunset Song", and "In Devil's Arms" (this list is undoubtedly not complete). They're still using compound meters in new songs as of Graveward (in "Kaedit Nos Pestis", for example).
  • Kayo Dot really likes this trope. Almost every song on Hubardo has at least one compound meter section. Other albums use it, too, though maybe not to the same extent.
  • Black metal band Botanist is extremely fond of this trope. It's one of the many things that makes their music so strange (although the strangest is still the fact that their music is mostly based around the hammered dulcimer).

    Progressive Rock 
  • 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.
    • Yes' "Roundabout" has choruses in 14/4 (6/4 + 2/4 + 6/4) and an ending vocal section in 7/4.
    • 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 "Supper's 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 regarded as the song's Crowning Moment of Awesome.
    • Pink Floyd also has ""Mother" and "Two Suns in the Sunset" (both 5/4).
    • 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.
  • One section of Sound of Contact's "Mobius Slip" repeats 10/4 + 8/4 + 10/4 + 7/4.
  • 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.
    • "Losing It" has verses in 5/8, the chorus in 4/4, and alternating bars of 5/8 and 6/8 in the bridge.
  • Many of Jethro Tull's catalog uses uncommon time signatures.
    • Since the album Thick as a Brick is a Stealth Parody of many norms of their genre, it has many weird signatures and changes thereof. The "See there! A son is born" part of it, for example, 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.
    • Their song "Living in the Past" is in 5/4. Ian Anderson did this in an attempt to avert it becoming a Black Sheep Hit, but it did so anyway.
    • "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.
    • "Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus" from Frances the Mute features a 6/8 intro, a 4/4 main setcion, a guitar solo and buildup in 29/16, followed by an explosive outro in 10/4.
    • "Tetragrammaton" from Amputechture rotates through 11 different time signatures (including two areas with no time signature), and manages to count some uncommon times in multiple ways (one section in 12/8 is counted [5+ 5+ 2/]/8 every first measure and [4+ 4+ 4]/8 every second measure.) A full breakdown can be found here.
    • A few examples from The Bedlam in Goliath: "Metatron" (5/4), "Wax Simulacra" (11/8 or [6+ 5]/8), and "Cavalettas" (11/8 or [5+ 6]/8).
  • Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" is in 7/4 time.
  • "Red", by King Crimson, has three bars of 5/8 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.
  • Mew is good at pulling off odd time while you aren't looking with its dreamy, spacey compounds of two, three, and four. For example, "Hawaii" has 11/4 choruses and "Repeaterbeater" 22/4 ones, "Vaccine" ends with 11/4 and "Am I Wry? No" with 15/2, "156" has a refrain in 13/4, and "Sometimes Life Isn't Easy" is all over the place. Cartoons and macrame wounds ends with 3 beats of 3/4 and one beat of 2/4 repeated several times.
  • 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.
  • Joan Osborne's song "Right Hand Man" is in 7/8 time.
  • Common in Zeuhl, which probably isn't surprising as the music is deliberately intended to feel alien. It is not uncommon for songs to change meter and tempo every four measures or more frequently. Magma naturally use it a lot, as the genre's progenitors, but perhaps the most ridiculous examples are found in Japanese band Koenji Hyakkei's discography, in which apparently some segments of songs are intended to be counted with beats of varying lengths. One example of this is in the song "Ozone Fall" (which is coincidentally one of the band's few songs to have a comprehensible title, though the lyrics are in the band's usual Con Lang). "Fettim Paillu" is apparently another. Sister band Ruins does this a lot too, to the point where it often seems like they have more segments in 7/4 than in any other meter.
  • Journey had "I'm Gonna Leave You" and "Nickel and Dime" back before they shifted to pop.
  • English 70s stoner band Caravan have a song called "Hoedown" which does sound a lot like a hoedown, with upbeat key signatures, excited guitars, a country & western-sounding guitar solo, and... 7/8 time.
  • Gentle Giant's music has been parodied with this image. Not too far off from the actual content of their songs; they don't have a reputation as one of the most complex prog bands for nothing.
  • Todd Rundgren used this a lot in his prog days. Two examples: his cover of "Cool Jerk" is in 7/8 (as a pun on its title), and the intro of "Don't You Ever Learn?" (which returns in the middle of the song) drops several beats at various points. The early Utopia albums also feature a lot of this; "Freak Parade" is a good example.
  • 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. See also the page quote.

    Pop 
  • Andrew Huang did a challenge: "write and compose a radio-worthy pop song in 5/4 time". The result was "Alone" and ended up on the album The Coldest Darkness.
  • Iranian artist Samir's "Dobareh" is 9/4 in the verses and 6/4 in the choruses. (Iranian traditional music also delves into odd time signatures now and then.)
  • Bobby Mc Ferrin's "Stars" is in 13/8 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.
  • Always by Erasure is mostly in standard 4/4 time, but the chorus has an extra beat at the end, making it either three bars of 4/4 and one of 5/4, or 17/4 overall. As the tempo of the song makes it a good one for walking to, the extra beat will probably throw your stride out a little.

    Punk/Pop-Punk 
  • Ted Leo and the Pharmacists' "Better Lead than Dead" switches between 7/4 and 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.
  • The choruses of Refused's "The Deadly Rhythm" are in 11/4.
  • The intro to Sum 41's "Nothing on My Back" is in 7/4.
  • Mission Of Burma's "Dirt" has verses in 11/4 and a bridge in 7/4. The rest is in common.
  • "Forced March" by Earth Crisis (most notably covered by Between the Buried and Me) has 9/4 (7/4 + 3/6) verses and a section in 11/8; the rest is mostly 4/4 and 6/8.
  • Emo band Far's song "Bury White," most notably covered by Finch, has choruses in 9/4.
  • The bridge to Silverstein's "Born Dead" is in 7/4.
  • The intro to Matchbook Romance's "My Mannequin Can Dance" goes 3/4 + 4/4 + 5/4 + 6/4, repeated twice. The rest of the song is in Common, except for 3/4 in part of each chorus.
  • 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.
  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, Midori's "5 Hyoushi" (translates as "5 Beat") is mostly in 5/8. The choruses are in 6/8.
  • Hüsker Dü's "Masochism World" jumps all over the place.

    R&B 
  • The verses in "Kiss from a Rose" by Seal are in 5/4 time. It's slow 5/4, though, and could reasonably be noted as 15/8 or 3/8 instead.
  • The first half of the intro to Meshell Ndegeocello's "Dead End" is in 5/4, and the second half is in oddly divided 8/4 (2+3+3).
  • The refrain riff to Mary J. Blige's "This Christmas" is in 7/4.

    Rock 
  • "Math Rock" is an entire subgenre named after its fondness for this trope. Generally, not only do math rock bands exclusively use odd time signatures, but they tend to frequently change signatures and use odd stop-start rhythms.
    • Minus the Bear notably averts this; most of their songs are in straight 4/4 all the way through. They do, however, fulfill other landmarks of math rock: fast, cyclical, hammered-on, and clean guitar riffs with emo singing on top.
    • UK math rock band TTNG (formerly This Town Needs Guns) experiments frequently with odd time signatures. Their song "Crocodile," in 10/4 and 4/4, is quite normal by their standard; for example, "Baboon" is mostly in 23/8, "Panda" is largely in 17/8, and "26 Is Dancier than 4" lives well up to its title.
    • Battles' "Ddiamondd" has 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. "Rainbow" from the same album is in 15/8.
    • The bridge of "F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X." by The Fall Of Troy alternates bars of 6/4 and 9/8.
    • The originators of the genre of Math Rock, Slint, have "Nosferatu Man" in 5/4 and "Breadcrumb Trail" in 7/4.
  • The intro to The Allman Brothers Band's "Whipping Post" is in 11/4 (or 3+3+3+2/4) time. Interestingly, Gregg Allman didn't realize what he was penning was unusual, but simply tried to make a 3/4 section sound natural by chopping off one beat. Duane had to show him what 11/4 was.
  • "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 choruses of that band's "Intervention" use two measures of 7/4 and one of 6/4 before switching to common.
  • A few songs late in The Beatles' catalogue have some rhythmical shenanigans. The bridge of "Here Comes The Sun" from Abbey Road rotates between 7/8, 11/8 and 4/4, respectively, and "Good Morning Good Morning" has completely screwed up verses. "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" (The 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.
    • John Lennon's "Working Class Hero" from John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band is in 7/4.
    • "Within You Without You" perhaps takes the cake; it's based on Indian ragas with cycles of 10 and 16 beats. There's a more upbeat epic (sitar) rocking section that works out to be about in 5/4, but not always.
  • Bloc Party's "This Modern Love" is in 14/4, and the ending to "Little Thoughts" 7/4.
  • Blondie, believe it or not, has an example here, and in one of their best known songs to boot. One part of the instrumental section of "Heart of Glass" skips a beat in three out of eight measures, meaning that there is a popular disco song with a few measures of Uncommon Time in it. (The exact pattern, if you're wondering, is 4+3+4+3+4+3+4+4/4, meaning that there's a 29-beat pattern instead of the standard 32. This no doubt tripped up quite a few people on the dance floor without them knowing exactly why).
  • Broken Social Scene has "7/4 (Shoreline)".
  • Cat Stevens' "Rubylove" is in 7/8.
  • Chicago's song "The Road" has continually shifting time signatures: 5/4, 6/4, 3/4, 4/4, etc. Actually, Chicago tended to play with time signatures a lot back in the beginning. 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 chord progression is typical for blues but rhythmically, it is slightly "off" from blues, hence "Purples" in the title.
    • Then there's the hook in "It Better End Soon"—a measure of 13/8 followed by a measure of 11/8!
  • Clutch has "The Elephant Riders". The intro and chorus are in 7/8 and the bridge alternates between 4/4 and 5/4.
  • While perhaps not strictly uncommon, Coheed and Cambria's "Everything Evil" has sections in 4/4, 6/4, and 9+6+6+9/4 and transitions between them pretty fluidly.
  • Coldplay's song "Glass of Water" is written in 7/4 time.
  • "Get On" by Covenant seems to be in 4/4 at first, but skips a beat every other measure, making it 7/4.
    • The same goes for the choruses of Powderfinger's "Love Your Way."
  • Cream's "White Room" has an intro and bridge in 5/4. The verses are in Common Time.
  • A number of songs on Dave Matthews Band's Before These Crowded Streets, the most prog of their albums, use odd or shifting time signatures. "Rapunzel", for example, switches between 4/4, 5/4, and 6/8, while "The Dreaming Tree" is in 7/8 until the last section, which alternates 8/4 and 6/4 bars before switching again to 3/8.
  • Dirty Projectors flirt with odd time changes frequently, but "Temecula Sunrise" is on another level, which is unusual for an indie pop tune. The brunt of it seems to be in 12/8, although there's about six meter changes in the first minute.
  • Elliott Smith's "Rose Parade" is in 14/4.
  • Five Iron Frenzy's Car is in 5/4 with an occasional 6/4 bar at the end of a phrase.
  • The Fleet Foxes' "Battery Kinzie" jumps around between 4/4, 6/4, and a bit of 2/4, 3/4, and 5/4.
  • Post-Rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor use this sometimes. “Dead Metheny” is in 7/8. One segment of “Motherfucker=Redeemer” is a polyrhythm with a guitar part in 5/8 and most of the rest in 6/8. A later segment of the song is also in 7/8.
  • The eponymous song from Incubus' album Make Yourself alternates between one measure of 7/4 and two measures of 4/4.
  • Juice Leskinen's Rampojen valssi (Waltz of the Cripples) is in 5/4.
  • Juliana Hatfield's "Spin The Bottle" is in 5/4 time.
  • 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".
  • 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.
    • From the same album, we get "The Ocean"; the main riff is in 15/8.
    • The main 'call-and-response' section in "Black Dog" from Led Zeppelin IV is in what sounds like (3/4 + 4/4 + 5/4).
    • "Four Sticks" from the same album alternates between 5/8 and 6/8, with a synthesizer section in 3/4.
    • "Kashmir" from Physical Graffiti has in the main section the drums playing in straight 4/4, while the strings, guitar and bass all play in 3/4. There's also a bar of 9/8 before the bridge.
    • "Achilles Last Stand" from Presence has a segment in 5/4.
    • Also from Presence, the bridge of "For Your Life" has extra beats thrown into some of the measures, and the "Do it when you wanna" section features a measure of 4/4 followed by a measure of 5/4.
    • Again from Presence, the intro to "Tea for One" is in 9/8, although Bonzo plays a straight 4/4 beat over it. The rest of the song is in a languid 6/8.
  • The verses of Linkin Park's "Powerless" are in 7/4.
  • The bridges of Live's "Shit Towne," while perhaps not strictly Uncommon, are in 9+9+12/4, all triple-compounds. The rest of the song is in 3/4 and 4/4.
  • Lush's "Covert" is in 9/8, as is "De Luxe".
  • 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."
  • "Negative" by Mansun is in 5/4.
  • Japanese band Mass of the Fermenting Dregs used this sometimes. "Kono supīdo no saki e" contains one riff in 5/4, and "Delusionalism" closes with a few measures in 7/4.
  • 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).
  • 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, and "Just Like You Imagined" is in 10/4.
  • The choruses of Nirvana's "Beeswax" are in 7/4.
  • The distorted section in Of Montreal's "Famine Affair" goes 6/4 + 9/4 + 8/4 + 7/4 + 8/4.
    • The mid-section of "You Do Mutilate?" is in 9/4.
  • OK Go's "WTF?" 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.
  • Pearl Jam uses odd time signatures on occasion. These include "Low Light" (mostly 13/4), "Push Me, Pull Me" (13/4), "Cropduster" (7/4 verses; 10/4 choruses); "Get Right" (14/4 verses; 6+6+4+4/4 choruses), "Alone" (9/4 choruses ending with a measure of 7/4), "Yellow Moon" (switches between 11/4 and 12/4) and "You Are" (mostly 10/4 verses). These have generally gone unnoticed; one of their only hits with uncommon time is "The Fixer", whose intro is in 5/4.
    • Stone Gossard briefly went solo in 2001, and "Unhand Me," his only single from that time, is mostly 10/4.
  • People in Planes' "Barracuda" has 5/4 verses with occasional measures of 3/4 to close off a phrase; the choruses are in 4/4. Also, the choruses of "For Miles Around (Scratch to Void)" are mostly in 4/4 but include measures of 7/8, and "My Black Widow" starts with a few pairings of 7/4 + 3/6.
  • Pete Townshend's "Face Dances Part 2" is in 5/4.
  • The Pixies' "Blue Eyed Hexe" is 7/4 in the verses and 4/4 everywhere else.
  • PJ Harvey's "Water" from Dry is effectively a march in 5/4.
  • 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.
  • Primus has a song titled "Eleven" that is, unsurprisingly, in 11/8.
  • 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).
    • Depending how you count it, "Sail to the Moon" has as many as 30 or 40 time signature changes, though it's such a subdued song casual listeners might not even notice. It's easily Radiohead's most extreme deployment of this trope, though. Take a look.
    • The B-side "Polyethylene" is not too far behind "Sail to the Moon" in time signature complexity. See the link just above.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Ethiopia" is in 7/4, and the bridge of "Subway to Venus" is in 5/4.
  • River City Extension's "Our New Intelligence" is in 5/4 with occasional 6/4 bars, except for its middle section, in simple 4/4.
  • Saves The Day's "Rise" is mostly in 7/4, and "Tomorrow Too Late" mostly 10/4.
  • Say Anything goes odd for a few measures in "I Will Never Write an Obligatory Song About Being on the Road and Missing Someone." After the first time Max Bemis sings "and I've got you back" in a 4/4 phrase ending with a measure of 2/4, the band lurches into 6/4; then 9/4 the second time and 14/4 the third.
    • "The Futile" opens with a few measures of 7/4.
    • "About Falling" has a couple measures of 9/4 in the bridge.
  • A few examples from The Smashing Pumpkins, which are undoubtedly not an exhaustive list:
    • "Untitled" is perhaps their most notable example, which switches meter signatures literally every couple of measures for most of the song (being mostly comprised of patterns like 3+3+4/4 and 3+3+4+4/4) and has several bars of 5/4.
    • "Quiet" throws in some bars of 7/4 in between bars of 3/4 and 4/4.
    • "Set the Ray to Jerry" has verses in 10/4.
    • "Innosense" ends with several measures of 5/4.
    • "Let Me Give the World to You", in a borderline example of this trope, uses seven-measure patterns in its verses.
  • Sting loves this trope.
    • 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.
    • "Straight To My Heart" on his second solo album ...Nothing Like the Sun is in 7/4
    • Fourth album Ten Summoner's Tales has plenty:
      • "Love Is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven)" has the verses in 7/4 (as a nod to the Magnificent Seven), but the chorus in 4/4, to make it a country song
      • "St. Augustine in Hell" is in 7/8, with a spoken interlude in 3/4
      • Despite all of this, "Seven Days" is, of course, in 5/4.
      • "I Hung My Head" from the album Mercury Falling is in 9/8 time that sounds like alternating 4/4 and 5/4.
    • Brand New Day is similarly full of this stuff:
      • "Big Lie Small World" is in 9/8 time with the occasional extra bar just for fun. The middle eight starts off in 4/4 but reverts back to 9/8 quickly.
      • "Fill Her Up" starts in 4/4 time and then shifts into 7/4 halfway through.
    • "Like a Beautiful Smile", from the UK-only version of Sacred Love, is mostly in 7/4 apart from every fourth bar in the verse and the chorus, which revert to 4/4.
  • 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)
  • The Strokes' "Two Kinds of Happiness" has verses in 14/4.
  • 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.
  • "Hook in Her Head" by Throwing Muses is in 5/4.
  • "Possum Kingdom" by The Toadies switches every measure between 7/4 and 8/4.
  • Tokyo Police Club's "Favourite Food" has choruses in 14/4, and "Gone" is entirely in 12/4 (3/4 + 4/4 + 3/4 + 2/4). Uncommon time seems, well, uncommon among recent bands.
  • 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).
  • The Edge said in an interview around the time The Unforgettable Fire was released that "Fourth of July", one of U2's rare instrumentals, is probably in 13/8.
  • Umphrey's Mcgee uses this a lot. Of particular note is their song "Eat", which alternates bars of 13/8 and 7/4 in the main riff and goes into all kinds of other times elsewhere. Also, the main riff of "Andy's Last Beer" alternates 4/4 and 7/8, the intro to "40's Theme" is in 7/4, and the refrain of "Ringo" is in 7/8.
  • Weezer closes their song "The Good Life" with a few measures of 5/16, and each section of each verse ends with a measure of 5/4.
    • Also, the choruses of the rare song "Jamie" can be plotted out as 14/4: they pair two measures of 3/4 with two of 4/4, and then it repeats.
  • 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.

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).
  • "Medley from Spell of the Unown" from Pokemon 3: Spell of the Unown has a section in 7/8.
  • 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.
  • In the English dub of the Digimon Adventure episode "The Dancing Digimon", Joe's chant, "Bakemon, lose your power," repeats every three-and-a-half strikes of Sora's hat, and thus resembles 7/8 time.

Ballet
  • The "Mexican Dance" in Aaron Copland's Billy the Kid music is in 5/8, alternating with the occasional bar of 4/8.

Comic Books
  • 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.

Film
  • The main score to The Terminator is in 13/16 (by accident).
  • The Uruk-Hai theme from Howard Shore's The Lord of the Rings score, heard most prominently in 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. At one point in The Two Towerswhen?  this theme is combined with others giving us a 5/4 version of the Fellowship theme.
  • 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.
  • Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" in The Exorcist. The opening riff switches between 7/8 and 8/8.
  • 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 & 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.
  • Tower Heist's main theme is written in 7/4.
  • The central motif of Conan the Barbarian (1982)'s main theme alternates between 6/4 and 5/4, with the percussionless middle section in 4/4.
  • In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the theme playing just after the Hunger Games have begun is in 7/4.
  • "When Your Mind's Made Up" from Once is in 5/4, starting out peacefully but crescendoing into Epic Rocking (particularly in The Musical when they have an entire Greek Chorus on backing vocals).
  • Some of Philip Glass' score to Koyaanisqatsi uses this trope. For example, there are segments of "Pruitt Igoe" in 7/4 and other strange metres.

Live-Action TV
  • The original version of the theme music to The Bill was in 7/4, or (6/8 + 4/4). 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.
  • Doctor Who
    • The music playing as the "ghosts" shimmer into Cybermen in the episode "Army of Ghosts" is in 5/4.
    • The Eleventh Doctor's theme is almost entirely in 7/4. 7 + 4= 11.
  • The Battlestar Galactica (2003) score by Bear McCreary uses some unusual time signatures for leitmotifs. The most prominent is Six's theme, which is in 9/8 time (although it's worth noting that Richard Gibbs actually wrote this leitmotif). An example of a McCreary piece that uses Uncommon Time is "Black Market", which is (if memory serves) in 7/4.
  • 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.
  • The theme playing for a while around 40 minutes through in the Breaking Bad episode "...And the Bag's in the River" is in 11/8 (6+5).

Opera
  • 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).

Software
  • 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.
    • Another Vocaloid example appears in "Looking For You In the Sky", the first part of the Synchronicity series, this song has a soft intro that lasts about half of the song, but goes into 5/8 time for the rest of the song.

Theatre
  • For some reason, Andrew Lloyd Webber really likes doing this (in particular, he seems to love septuple time — there's a song in 7/8 or 7/4 somewhere in practically every one of his shows):
    • Jesus Christ Superstar has "Everything's Alright" in 5/4, and parts of "The Temple" in 7/4.
      • The part of the song "Heaven on their Minds" that goes Nazareth, your famous son, should have been a great unknown... / Table, chair and oaken chest ... and the instrumental repetition a few seconds later is in 7/8 time.
      • "Trial Before Pilate (Including the Thirty-Nine Lashes)" goes through 41 different time signature changes, from 4/4 to 5/4 to 7/8 to 2/8 to nearly everything in between.
    • In Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, "Who's The Thief?" starts in 7/8.
    • Cats has pieces of "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser" and "Skimbleshanks" in 7/8 and 13/8, respectively.
    • "The Money Kept Rolling In" from Evita is similarly in 7/8.
    • The title song in Sunset Boulevard is in 5/8.
    • The song "Notes" from The Phantom of the Opera is partly in 15/16. The obligatory 7/8 section comes from the Don Juan Opera Within An Opera.
    • "The Rescue" from Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Screen-to-Stage Adaptation of The Wizard of Oz is in 7/8.
  • "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.
  • The choruses of "Shipoopi" from The Music Man - and, perhaps more notably, Family Guy - are in 10/4.
  • Leonard Bernstein's Mass has some very unusual time signatures:
    • "In Nomine Patris" has the composite time signature 3/8 + 3/4, which is inverted for the bridge.
    • The "Mea culpa" section of "Confiteor" is a swinging, finger-snapping 5/4.
    • "Gloria Tibi" is in 5/8.
    • "God Said" alternates rapidly between 2/4 and 3/8 until finally settling on 7/8.
    • "Credo in unum Deum" uses any time signature that fits the stresses of the Latin words.
    • "World Without End" is in 7/8.
    • "I Believe In God" alternates bars of "cut time" (2/2) and 3/4 in the bridge.
    • "Agnus Dei" has a refrain (also used as the bridge of "I Don't Know") in 4/4, 5/8 and 5/4.
    • "Things Get Broken" not only reprises several of the above, but includes a new tune that alternates two bars of 2/4 with one of 3/8.
    • "Secret Songs" has a refrain that starts in 7/8 and continues in 5/8.
  • In West Side Story, the "Scherzo" section of the Dream Ballet uses a mixture of time signatures.
    • "America" alternates between 6/8 and 3/4.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has two sections in (mostly) 5/8: the introductions to "Ladies in their Sensitivities" and "Pretty Women".
  • "Sensitivity" from Once Upon a Mattress is in 5/4.
  • "Feelings" from The Apple Tree alternates bars of 3/4 and 3/2.
  • "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.
    • "Wish I Were Here" is 4/4 for most of the song, but at one part it switches to 7/8, then back to 4/4.
  • 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. "Love Song" can't pick a time signature and stick with it.
  • In I Can Get It For You Wholesale, "What Are They Doing To Us Now?" is largely in 5/4.
  • In The Magic Show, "West End Avenue" uses a mélange of time signatures (7/4 and 9/8 being among the recurring ones), changing almost with every bar.
  • In The Most Happy Fella, when Tony is learning to walk again, his limping walk is accompanied by incidental music in 5/4 time.
  • In Peter Grimes, the round "Old Joe has gone fishing" is in 7/4.
  • "Rehearse," the Opening Chorus from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, is in 7/8.

Video Games

Visual Novels
  • Emi's theme from Katawa Shoujo, "Standing Tall," is in 9/4 time.

Web Original
  • Mazedude's "Microscopism" is in an incredibly bizarre 7˝/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).
  • 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.

Western Animation
  • 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. Dethalbum III continues this trend, where "I Ejaculate Fire" has a mid-section that switches between 7/4 and 8/4, and "Starved" is pretty much all over the place.
  • The main theme for Pixar's The Incredibles is in 5/4 (the one you hear when the credits begins).
  • The main theme of the tv show ReBoot is also 5/4.
  • What is the intro (non-percussive) to "He Mele no Lilo" from Lilo & Stitch in? Does it even have a time signature?
  • "Don't Put Marbles in Your Nose" by Scäb, fictional band from Home Movies, is mostly in 17/8 (7/8 + 4/8 + 6/8).
  • "Jack's Obsession" from The Nightmare Before Christmas is partly in 7/4 ('Christmas time is buzzing in my skull...').
  • The main theme of Ćon Flux is in 7/4.
  • In Rainbow Rocks, the Dazzlings' final song "Welcome to the Show" starts off in 15/8 and stays there for about a minute before switching to 4/4.

Real Life
  • The Westminster Quarters, heard frequently from the likes of church bells, doorbells and, most famously, Big Ben, is usually played in 5/4 (although popovishka makes little attempt to play it with the right rhythm).

Other
  • 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.
    • A comment on a bulletin board: This is child prog. Claimed to be legal in Netherlands.
  • The unplayable joke piece "Fairie's Aire and Death Waltz" has some ridiculous time signatures, including 3/6 and 66/66.