IN THE WOOD­SHED

Char­lie Griffiths says that 5/4 is one of the most use­ful and ac­ces­si­ble odd-time sig­na­tures. Here he shows how to mas­ter it.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Char­lie Griffiths helps you hone your skills. This month he ex­am­ines one of the most pop­u­lar odd-time sig­na­tures: 5/4 time.

It’s quite easy to grasp 5/4 time and easy to utilise due to its close sim­i­lar­ity to 4/4. Be­ing an odd-time sig­na­ture it has an in­her­ent ‘off-kil­ter’ feel, but it’s also quCithe ac­ces­si­ble. Songs like Ra­dio­heads’s 15 Step, An­i­mals by Muse or St­ing’s won­der­ful Seven Days are all prog-style rock and in 5/4 time. 4/4 means four quar­ter-notes per bar, which we usu­ally count as sim­ply ‘1-2-3-4’ over and over again. 5/4 lit­er­ally means ‘five quar­ter­notes per bar’, which is es­sen­tially a 4/4 bar with an ex­tra down­beat added. Try count­ing ‘1-2-3-4-5,1-2-3-4-5’ re­peat­edly (or hip-po-pota-mus) to get a sense of the 5/4 feel. These five quar­ter-notes can be sep­a­rated into smaller groups of twos and threes. This is of­ten an eas­ier way to men­tally process the rhyth­mic struc­ture of odd-time bars. Gen­er­ally a bar of 5/4 can be bro­ken down to 3 then 2, or 2, then 3. This means you can sim­plify the bar by count­ing: ‘one-two-three, one-two’. This is demon­strated in Ex­am­ple 1, where the shape of the gui­tar part is bro­ken into three beats, then two beats. This is sim­i­lar to the Paul Des­mond-penned jazz stan­dard Take 5. We can also switch this rhyth­mic struc­ture around and count ‘one-two, one-two-three’ as shown in Ex­am­ple 2. Ex­am­ple 3 uses both of these count­ing struc­tures but this time ap­plied to eighth­notes. This rock riff is in the style of Tool’s Adam Jones. If we used the fret­ted notes as the cue for the count­ing struc­ture, we can see that the riff is ‘2-3’, ‘2-3’, ‘2-3’, ‘3-2’. This same struc­ture is used again in Ex­am­ple 4 but this time played with sus­tain­ing chords. Keep count­ing the 2s and 3s through­out in or­der to phrase the riff cor­rectly. For more solid tim­ing keep your foot tap­ping in five even down­beats per bar. The fi­nal ex­am­ple is based in 16th-notes with a string-skip­ping shred-style gui­tar lick which has a five-note melody on each string. Five 16th notes played four times is the same as 5/4 time one time. Play through each ex­am­ple and make sure you can count along in terms of 2s and 3s as you go, as well as tap­ping your foot on the down­beat through­out. Once you have mem­o­rised the riffs try play­ing along with the back­ing tracks we’ve pro­vided.

SONGS LIKE 15 STEP BY RADIOHEAD, AN­I­MALS BY MUSE AND ST­ING’S SEVEN DAYS ARE ALL PROG STYLE ROCK IN 5/4 TIME

NEXT MONTH Char­lie looks at per­form­ing picked arpeg­gios with note mut­ing

Matt Bel­lamy wrote Muse’s track An­i­mals us­ing 5/4 time

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