Playing across bar lines – Implying odd time signatures in 4/4

Most musicians when playing in 4/4 consider each measure a connect unit. When you play like this it is very easy to differentiate between each beat and each measure. This is the norm because this is what most people is familiar hearing, and this is how they are taught. There is a whole world of possibilities waiting to be explored if you learn to play outside of the common time signature. If you learn to imply an odd time signature over 4/4 you can easily add a little extra spice to your playing.

When you imply an odd time signature you are still playing 100% in time, you are just disguising your rhythm so it seems like the song changed. With this approach, the rhythm you choose will take some amount of time to cycle around and return where it started. The way to do this is to pick an odd number. The easiest numbers to play are 5 and 7. For this lesson I will use 5, if you are interested in taking this further, you can apply this principle to 3, 7, 9 or any odd number.

To explain how this works I will use common counting for the 16th note, but I will explain an easier way to count for this principle. Count in 16th notes, here is a diagram to show you the 16th notes.

This shows how to count 16th notes so that you can learn to imply odd time signatures

Take a piece of paper and write this out. Then on every 5th count put an X over it. It will then look like this.

counting odd time signatures

When you play this it will go over each bar line. This will cycle around and eventually come back to where it started. So how do we count this? You need to feel the 16th note beat then count 1 2 3 4 skip a beat 1 2 3 4 skip a beat. Make sure you really feel the 16th note rhythm. After you work on this for awhile you will start to memorize it and it won’t seem as hard. Just like everything else start slow and work up.

How do you incorporate this in to your playing? Well this concept is used a lot in djent metal and they use it for rhythm. You can come up with complex rhythms that are single note rhythms that repeat, or you can use a simple power chord with this rhythm. Another possible use for this concept is soloing. Why not throw this concept into a solo for a couple measures to add a little freshness to your playing. If this concept is something that lends itself to your style of playing, then you will find a use for it. If not then you are at least aware that this exist.

Playing over the bar line is a great way to spice up your playing. Implying odd time signatures with 16th notes will sure change the sound. There are many uses, experiment to find something that fits you style. Have fun with this new bit of knowledge!