Are you up for tak­ing a break from com­mon time? Char­lie Grif­fiths presents a prog-in­flu­enced piece with odd time sig­na­tures, syn­co­pated rhythms and some sign posts.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Char­lie Grif­fiths tests your odd-time skills in a proggy piece for you to read and play.

This piece is in­spired by pro­gres­sive rock bands like Rush, Yes, Gen­tle Gi­ant and Dream The­ater. One of the com­mon threads be­tween all of th­ese bands is the use of odd time sig­na­tures. Odd times can lead to more in­ter­est­ing rhythms and a more cre­ative ap­proach to the ‘feel’ of the piece, of­ten chang­ing nu­mer­ous times within a song or sec­tion.

Have a look at the chart for this month’s piece and you’ll no­tice that there are var­i­ous time sig­na­tures through­out: 4/4, 5/4, 7/8, 9/8, 7/4, 13/8 and 12/8. Th­ese pairs of num­bers tell you two things; the lower one is the type of beat; here we have quar­ter notes (4) and eighth notes (8). The up­per num­ber tells you how many of those beats there are in the bar. This can be any num­ber; for ex­am­ple, the first sec­tion in this piece is in 5/4 time, which means that the over­all ‘feel’ of the bar is quar­ter-notes. The up­per num­ber tells us that there are five quar­ter-notes in that bar, so you can count five down­beats: ‘1-2-3-4-5’. Else­where, we have 7/4, which means that there are seven down­beats per bar, so you can count ‘1-2-3-4-5-6-7’ at the given tempo.

Bars with an ‘8’ as the low­est num­ber are counted as eighth notes, there­fore 7/8 means that there are seven eighth notes, which are counted ‘1& 2 & 3 & 4’ - which feels a bit like 4/4, but with an eighth note miss­ing at the end. 13/8 is counted in the same man­ner, but is a bit longer ‘1& 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 & 7’. We also have 9/8 and 12/8, which means ‘nine eighth notes’ and ‘12 eighth notes’ re­spec­tively. The eighth notes in th­ese bars are of­ten grouped into threes, giv­ing them a triplet feel ‘1& a, 2 & a, 3 & a’ for 9/8 and ‘1 & a,2 & a, 3 & a, 4 & a’ for 12/8. In essence, odd times are no more com­pli­cated than 4/4 time, the note lengths for quar­ter, eighth and 16th notes re­late to the tempo in ex­actly the same way, you just need to get used to count­ing be­yond the num­ber ‘four’. In fact, when play­ing through the last four bars of the chart, you will no­tice that they are com­posed of a con­stant stream of eighth notes, which are all the same length. Play along with the back­ing track, how­ever, and you will hear that the ‘feel’ of each bar changes de­pend­ing on the back­beat pro­vided by the drum­mer – so keep your ear tuned.

The song starts in the key of A mi­nor, which has no sharps or flats (A-B-C-D-E-F-G) and is played in 5/4 time. The next sec­tion has three flats, which trans­poses us up a mi­nor

(C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb). third to C mi­nor It’s of­ten use­ful to scan through the sec­tion to find the low­est note and the high­est note, and from there you can choose the most suit­able po­si­tion on the fret­board.

Learn­ing to solo in odd time can be a lot of fun!

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