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spacerx img 5/4: The Classic 'Jazz 5/4' or 'Swing 5/4' Song Beat. spacerx img

Classic Jazz or Swing 5/4:
If you have mastered the Jazz Waltz beat in the previous lesson, this will be easy. 5/4 is a very uncommon time . . . based on five quarter notes to the bar, it has a somewhat lop-sided and uncomfortable feel.

The Permutation and Time Signature lessons in Finite to Infinity have taught us that there are at least 1,099,511,627,776 potential variations of 5/4. With that in mind, it is interesting to note that this one single version, (the 'Swing' or 'jazz' version) is by far the most notable of all trillion+ (other variation) possibilities. To my thinking, it seems about time for an innovative song writer and composer to utilize one or two of the other trillion+ permutations. (See "Finite to Infinity" for clues on how to do that.)

After studying it here, it may be helpful to locate and listen to a song based on this rhythm. One specific great old jazz tune comes to mind. Look for a song called 'Take Five' by Dave Brubeck. I think this song has hit the charts two separate times. Do a web search for an old album entitled 'Time Out', by Dave Brubeck. The song 'Take Five' was the hit song off that album. The original version featured Joe Morrelo on drums.

This Classic Swing version of 5/4 is really very simple if you already have the Jazz Waltz memorized. Simply add two more quarter notes to Jazz Waltz and repeat indefinitely. The math is simple: 2/4 + 3/4 = 5/4. Play around with this beat and discover your own variations. It may help to mention that all your expertise with Swing Independence will come in handy as you begin to experiment with variations of this unique and different beat pattern.

It may be best to begin all your fills on the first count of the measure. If you play 5 groups of most fills . . . you will come out on the first count of the next measure. Later on, you may want to experiment with fills that begin on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th or even the 5th count of the measure. Again, the only thing that really matters is that you maintain the five count flow in every bar. If you lose track in the middle of a song, the entire band will come apart like a house of cards. It can get downright ugly! Be careful!

VIDEO: 5/4 with a single stroke fill, beginning on the 3rd count of the 5-count bar. This video is designed for Internet Explorer using Windows Media Player.

Video: For almost all handheld devices and other browsers.

NOTE: It is possible and fairly easy to solo within this odd-time framework.
If we understand the (sometimes weird) math that exists within time-signature theory, we conclude that it is possible to easily convert 5/4 time to 10/4 time. Doing so brings the 'feel' of all the rhythms back to an even count, (if desired). We can then slip into a form of 10/4 that for all intentional purposes could be written in 2/4, which is a natural and normal (or even) count. The bulk of our solo can then be played as we play most of our solos. We would slip back into the 5-count feel as we resume playing the song. The transitions from 5/4 to 10/4 (then reverting to 2/4 and back) is a smooth and unnoticeable transition. Most 'ears' may believe you have stayed in 5/4 the entire time because it becomes an arbitrary and/or debatable point.

Can you imagine (and play) an 8th (rock) version of 5/4? What about 8th triplet 'Blues' 5/4? 16th 5/4? See "Finite to Infinity'" to understand it all. It is simpler than you could ever imagine!

THINK TANK! Imagine an 8th-note (rock) form of 10/4, sub-divided into two reptitious bars of 8th 5/4. The bass guitar plays five sets of 2/4 (which is even) while the drummer stays in an 8th-note 5-count (odd). The melody line could be in 5-count or 2-count. Add lyrics that fit. Would it be one of the most unique songs ever written . . . or would it resemble a train-wreck?

Other rhythm instruments (keys) could accent the 5-count feel while still others (horns or whatever) follow the bass-rhythm which is an even 2-count. Do it and please send me a copy. This idea has haunted me for years but I've never been involved with a band that could understand and do it. It's yours now. Take it!

spacerx imgCopyright Bill Powelson 1996 all rights reserved.

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