Odd Meters

02 May
Odd Meters

ClubFootedJibby Steve Eulberg

Playing traditional instruments in the western world, we get quite used to “square” or “even” rhythms and meters in the songs we play.

Marches and Reels are in (4/4) time; Polkas are in (2/2 or 4/4).  Even jigs (6/8) have 2 pulses in their measures.  Waltzes (3/4) have a strong beat on 1.  Slides (12/8 or 6/8) and Slip Jigs (9/8) have multiple pulses in their measures, but what all of these tunes tend to have in common is that they have a regular way to be counted based on the time signature.

There are other places in the world, however, where tunes with Odd Meters are considered normal or natural.  Key signatures of 5/4, 7/8, 11/8 feel odd to many of us, but odd can ALSO mean FUN!

Actually what happens in these tunes is the players or dancers sometimes sub-divide the counting into smaller bits to help keep the song together.

5/4 may be counted:  123 12

11/8 may be counted:  1234 123 1234.

7/8 may be counted several ways:  1234 123   or  123 1234   or 123 12 12.

Which choice is made is determined by the character of the tune itself.

The tune Club-Footed Jib is a tune that I wrote as an etude (a study) of the 7/8 time signature.  Each of the 3 sections of the tune has a different way of counting.  A new lesson teaching this tune and its exciting Odd Meter has now been posted.

Here is the hammered dulcimer demonstration of the tune.

Here is the mountain dulcimer demonstration of the tune.

Log in and learn to play this one as a tool for exploring an Odd Meter!


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5 responses to “Odd Meters

  1. Wout

    May 2, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    Hi, in most Balkan dances 7/8 is counted as 12 12 123, or short – short – long. In the dance the long is a short added an extra step. The bass will only play the 1!

  2. Steve Eulberg

    May 2, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Thanks, Wout, I had heard that, too. Thanks for your further explanation!

  3. Mark Gilston

    May 3, 2014 at 5:30 am

    Actually 7/8 is most often 123 12 12 in the Balkans. Bulgaria is the exception where 12 12 123 is more common (and they consider that 7/16). Rhythms in 11 are usually 12 12 123 12 12 (I have never heard of an additive rhythm in the Balkans using a 1234 in anything.) Macedonia also uses 123 12 12 12 12. Nines in both 12 12 12 123 and 12 123 12 12 are fairly common, and in Greece you also get slow nines in 123 12 12 12. Armenia has a 123 12 12 123 ten. And Macedonia has a 123 12 12 123 12 twelve.

    • Steve Eulberg

      May 3, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience and insight, Mark! I’d love to have an example of each kind of tune…do you have them on your site?

  4. Odd Meter Mix

    May 31, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Just saw this post and discussion now! I have many examples of odd meter tunes on my blog:


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