Odd Time Signatures That Don’t Sound Odd



4/4 is the most overused time signature, ever! So if you want your music to stand out, the easiest way to do that is to use odd time signatures. Wait, but don’t odd time signatures sound odd? Not if you use the hack in this video. But first… tea!

Hello revolutionaries, we are Kate Harmony and Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony), and welcome to Hack Music Theory. We help you make great music that stands out, so you can get discovered! If that sounds useful to you, then subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit that bell to get notified every Saturday, when we publish our new video. Alright, it’s time to open your DAW to hack music theory.

So, Spotify just announced their most-streamed songs of 2018, but we all know, the most popular songs are never the best songs! Smash hits are products designed and manufactured for mass appeal, while great songs are works of art courageously and creatively composed for music’s sake.

To balance out all the boring year-end lists of smash hits, we’re starting a new Hack Music Theory tradition: the most artistic music of the year!

And we made our list by asking ourselves this question: What releases this year contained the most interesting theory used in the most creative way, resulting in accessible works of art? And it is vital that the songs are accessible, cos it’s actually super easy to write complex music, but it’s super difficult to write complex music that makes people dance and sing along! Also, our choices are obviously only from music we’ve heard, and as there’s about 20,000 songs being released on Spotify every day, it’s humanly impossible to listen to everything, but we did our best! So in this video and next week’s video, we’ll be covering our top two releases of 2018, and a game-changing theory hack from each release.

And before we jump in, we’ve got more exciting news for you: We’re feeling festive, so one of you will win our pioneering online Apprenticeship course (worth $150). Details on how to enter are in the video.

Right, without further ado, the first artist on our very short list, is: GOOD TIGER. In Good Tiger’s album “We Will All Be Gone”, they masterfully balance complex composition and technical musicianship, with accessible songwriting and the most beautiful melodies. Yeah, they truly are a great band! So this week when we got the Spotify Wrapped email that sums up your year’s listening, we were not at all surprised to discover that we’ve spent 43 hours listening to this album! For this video, we’ll focus on their song “The Devil Thinks I’m Sinking”. After the most epic (and catchy) chorus in 4/4, the song veers into an unaccompanied guitar riff in the odd time signature of 7/16. However, its oddness is cleverly disguised by the guitar’s 1/16 note arpeggios, making the riff sound like a refreshing rainfall of notes. The drummer then brings back his snare, but it’s on a regular backbeat, making the riff sound like it’s now in 7/8, and also making the section feel like it’s now in a kinda rushed 4/4 (as the last 1/8 note in every bar is cut off). And with that, Good Tiger has made a very odd time signature sound very accessible.

Alright, now you’re gonna learn how to use this theory to make your own version, and what you see on the screen right now is our version that we made earlier. And by the way, these dark notes below are the root notes of the chords in our progression - these notes are all muted, they’re just there for reference. So, start by setting up four bars of 7/16, with your grid set to 1/16 notes, and your tempo set to 95 BPM. In the original song, this section is in the key of E minor, so we’ll use it too.

Step 1 - Arpeggios
First things first, you need a chord progression, so choose four chords from the key of E minor. We went with Em, Dmaj, Cmaj, and Bmaj. And please note that at the end, we switched into E harmonic minor, which turned the Bm chord into a Bmaj. Now, play each chord for one bar of 7/16. Then, break up each chord into 1/16 note arpeggios. And be sure to play some non-harmonic notes as well, which are notes that are not in the chord (but still in the key), like this 2 over our Em chord. And by the way, if you need help with the basics, or if you just wanna brush up on your scales and chords, then download our free music theory book below.

Step 2 - Grouping
Next, decide how you wanna group your 7/16. Good Tiger went with a 4 + 3 grouping, so we used it too. And to make your grouping stand out in this rainfall of 1/16 notes, accent the first note in each group, by turning its velocity up.

Step 3 - Backbeat
Lastly, when you add your drums, remember to play them in 7/8 with a regular backbeat snare in most bars. And a regular backbeat snare in 7/8 is on the third and seventh 1/8 notes in the bar. This makes everything feel like it’s in that kinda rushed 4/4 vibe that we spoke about earlier.

Right, now that you’ve got one section down, how do you write more sections for it, and then, how do you transition between those sections, and turn 'em into a song? Great questions, and if this is something you need help with, then check out our cutting-edge online apprenticeship course, where you’ll literally learn every step of the music making process, and most importantly, you’ll learn how to finish your songs! You’ll also gain access to our Private Network, which is a safe online space (i.e. social media platform) exclusively for our 500+ apprentices from 50+ countries. Our Network is a super supportive place for you to ask theory questions, share your music, get feedback, meet like-minded music makers, and collaborate! If all this sounds useful to you, then head on over to our Online Apprenticeship page now.

Kate & Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony)
Music Teachers & Producers in Vancouver BC, Canada


Level 1: Read our free book (below) & watch our YouTube videos
Level 2: Read our "Part 1" book & "Songwriting & Producing" PDF
Level 3: Learn our secret art of songwhispering & finish your music

Hack Music Theory is the pioneering notation-free method for making great music that stands out, so you can get discovered! Taught by award-winning music lecturer Ray Harmony, and his protégé (and wife) Kate Harmony, from their studio in Vancouver BC, Canada. Ray is the author of critically-acclaimed book series "Hack Music Theory", and has made music with Serj Tankian (System of a Down), Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad), Ihsahn (Emperor), Kool Keith (Ultramagnetic MCs), Madchild (Swollen Members), and many more! Kate has the highest grade distinction in Popular Music Theory from the London College of Music, and is the only person on the planet who's been trained by Ray to teach his method. On that note, the "Hack Music Theory" YouTube channel teaches relevant and instantly-usable music theory for producers, DAW users, and all other music makers (songwriters, singers, guitarists, bassists, drummers, etc.) in all genres, from EDM to R&B, pop to hip-hop, reggae to rock, electronic to metal (and yes, we djefinitely djent!).

© 2018 Revolution Harmony
Revolution Harmony is Ray Harmony & Kate Harmony
All content (script & music) in video by Revolution Harmony