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Playing With / Uncommon Time

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Basic Trope: A song uses a time signature that's, well, uncommon. It's typically agreed on that 2/2, 2/4, 3/4, 3/8, 4/4, 6/4, and 6/8 are common time signatures. Of somewhat less approval are versions of these with divergent denominators, like 6/2 and 3/16, as well as slightly less common ones like 8/8 (3+3+2 or 4+4), 9/8 (3+3+3), and 12/8 (3+3+3+3 or 4+4+4). Generally agreed to be uncommon are time signatures like 5/4, 7/4, 13/8, and 9/8 (2+2+2+3).

  • Straight: Self-explanatory.
  • Exaggerated: Really weird ones like 23/8, 28/16, 143/24, 15/8, or 71907/40120. It's very difficult to come up with something coherent and listenable, much less danceable, with signatures like these.
  • Downplayed: Percussion used slowly or quietly, so that you can't really tell, or a time signature like 10/4, divided as five measures of 2/4.
  • Justified:
    • A student has to write a piece in Uncommon Time in order to pass their music degree.
    • The composer just fells like experimenting with something different.
  • Inverted: Common Time
  • Subverted: The song sounds like it's on an odd meter, but it's actually a complicated polyrhythm over 4/4.
  • Double Subverted: Same as above... but then the song legitimately switches to a weird signature.
  • Parodied: √31/e, 0.2/512, 71/-5. The audience is baffled by this.
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  • Zig Zagged: The song switches back and forth from normal signatures like 4/4 and complex ones like 7/4.
  • Averted: Common Time
  • Enforced:
    • "We want our song to be as unique as possible. Let's use a time signature that's never been used before."
    • "I like this song of mine a lot, but I don't want it to be blasted out on pop radio all the time... I know! I'll put it in 5/4! That should do it..."
  • Lampshaded: The song's time signature is directly called out in its title or lyrics. ("Uncommong Headache")
  • Invoked: Artists deliberately use odd time signatures to make their music seem more sophisticated or attract a new fanbase in the prog world.
  • Exploited: ???
  • Defied: ???
  • Discussed: "Unlike some of the music you may hear nowadays, all our songs have Common Time."
  • Conversed: "I... can't find the rhythm in this." "You'll get used to it. This stuff shows up all the time in Southeastern European music, I hear."
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  • Deconstructed: It's painfully obvious the song was originally written in Common Time and then changed to suit Uncommon Time, making what could have been a great song anywhere from decent to nearly unlistenable.
  • Reconstructed: An old church hymn, after many years of interpreting the free time structure as Common Time — much to the chagrin of many a choir, who had to sing the hymn with a very disjointed, irregular, and confusing rhythm — is rewritten with Uncommon Time in mind to better suit the rhythm of the original song as well as make it less mind-bogglingly confusing.

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