Freeway Music — Columbia, SC’s Premier Music School

Being Creative With Measure and Time

I recently did a blog series on Rhythm guitar. This blog is geared more for songwriters. One of the things songwriters often overlook when writing a tune is being creative with time and measure. I hope these ideas add a layer to your writing.

Time Signature

I often ask my students about time signature, and it always seems like such a mystery to them. It’s quite simple really. The first number is how many beats per measure and the second tells you which kind of note gets one count. For example, 4/4 would have 4 beats per measure with a quarter note getting one count and 6/8 would have 6 beats per measure with an eighth note getting one count. If you haven’t experimented with writing in various time signatures, do it right away! “Money” by Pink Floyd is one of the most popular examples of a song written in an odd time signature. It’s riff is in 7/4: 7 quarter notes per measure. Here is a list of tunes someone compiled that have odd time signatures:
Odd Time Song List


Most of my students bring me songs divided up into even measures of four. I’m not trying to say that there is anything wrong with that. Sometimes you can’t beat a good 12 bar blues or 32-bar tune; however, if you want some variety in your writing, try to shake it up. Write a song that has 4 measures, and then 5 on the next line. It will blow you away how refreshing it will feel. The creative possibilities are endless.

Mix it Up

Once you have tried odd time signatures and odd measuring, mix it up and really get creative. I have a song that starts off in 7/4 for the verse and goes to 4/4 for the chorus, and another that starts off in 4/4, and switches to 6/8 in the bridge. Maybe add a 2/4 measure. That’s another really cool technique to make a typical chord progression sound refreshing. Here are couple of songs to check that mix it up really well: “Black Bird” by The Beatles and “New Slang” by The Shins. Go listen to them and see if you can map out what’s happening in those tunes. Then, go experiment on your own.

I hope this entry will equip you with more creative ammo. Until next time, happy writing!

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