Works in "Irregular" Time Signatures

Note: I took this from this article on Wikipedia. I was really psyched about the article when I found it. At that time there were only 2 Zappa references in the whole article, which is sad in a discussion of odd times. So I started contributing as much as I could.

Then it started turning into a silly "bigger is better" contest with some dunce (or a couple of dunces) adding up as many measures as they could count into one jumbo time signature. Yeah! Some asshole had "The Ocean" by Led Zeppelin under the 15/4 heading. Another dimwit recently had a song in 133/32, but he didn't know the name of the song. (I guess he wins) Anyway, I did my best to ignore these clods where possible and to debunk them when I had access to the music and could figure out what they were claiming was in some absurdly large numbered time signature. For instance, adding 3 meas. of 5/8, 1 of 4/8, 3 of 6/8 and another of 4/8 into 41/8 in a song that didn't even have a phrase that would support "41" in the case of "Wait for Sleep" by Dream Theater.

While discussing this in the notes in that article, I was informed by another member of the wiki that Wikipedia's supposed to be about references to "established" or published authorities on the subject. So my entries for Zappa songs that aren't officially transcribed or published somewhere are considered "original research" and thus are frowned upon in the wikipedia community -- even though I can tell them how the beats are layed out and it's all easily verifiable. (In the words of the immortal Frank Rizzo: "Open your ears, Jerky!") So at that point I decided I'd invest my time on such things elsewhere, rather than contribute to an article that will probably get wacked at some point because a majority of it is "original research". Here's what I've come up with.

Disclaimer: I have yet to verify much of this, so a lot of it is likely incorrect. As time permits I will go back and verify and correct where needed. If you see inaccuracies, please do contact me and let me know what you think. Also, if I've infringed on any copyrights, it was purely by mistake. Let me know where I've erred and I will correct it, if it's a valid claim. I'm very much open to discussion about what goes here. With that said, feast your beats on the following

Songs in 5, aka quintuple meter

1 The theme songs from the M:I feature films (1996 and 2000) use 4/4 by repeating the first three beats of the bass line twice, holding melody notes during that period, and halving each note's duration.

Songs in 7, aka septuple meter

7/4 7/8 7/16 9/4 9/8 10/4 10/8 11/4 11/8 12/8 13/4 13/8 13/16 14/4 14/16 15/4 15/8 17/4 17/8 18/8 19/16 21/16 29/8 41/16 65/64

Mixed Meter

In a chart attributed to Scott Thunes for Zombie Woof from "The Best Band You Never Heard", the structure of the song is:
|| 12/16 | 5/16 (2x) | 4/8 | 5/4 | 15/16 (4x) | 4/4 (5x) ("Three hundred years ago..." up to "You know I'll never sleep no mo'" | 2/4 | 5/4 | 4/4 (7x) | 5/4 | 5/16 (11X) | 4/4 (12X) | 7/8 | 5/4 | 5/16 (8x) | 7/8 | 2/4 | 4/4 (81X for guitar solo) | 7/8 | 4/4 (3X)) | 7/8 | 4/4 (3X) | 12/16 | 5/16 (2x) | 4/4 ||

Rush - Cygnus X-1: Intro, 13/8 (6+7). Section at ~8:08 where the band comes in after the interlude, 11/8 (4+4+3).

Rush - Limelight: Opens in 4/4, modulates to 7/4 for guitar hook, but goes to 6/4 for verses, then combines sections in 6/4 and 4/4.

Yes, "Changes" from their 1983 album 90125: Intro thing is in a shifting pattern of || 4/4 | 6/8 | 4/4 | 12/8 ||. It breaks down as 4 quarter notes (4/4), then 2 triplets (6/8) | <--- repeat that whole measure, but add two more triplets on the end (12/8) | repeat. You could probably call it one measure of 14/8 and one of 20/8 respectively as well, but I don't think there is much advantage to doing it that way, at least where readability or teaching/communicating with other musicians are concerned. So it's more a matter of preference, I guess.


The earliest known western music was unmeasured (at least in the modern sense). For example the performance of plainsong, many of the masterpieces of which date from the fifth or sixth to the eighth centuries, is inflected both by the meter of the poetry and the articulation of the phrases into neumes, the groups of notes sung to each syllable, and this often results in complex and irregular rhythms. Compositions whose time signature is not constant are often encountered in 20th and 21st century classical music, The Rite of Spring (1913) providing an early example.

Shout outs for help with this page since it landed on
DJ not-I