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Odd time signatures
5 May 2010
4.00pm
Joe
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I was flying back to the UK from Berlin last night and began singing Two Of Us to myself ("We're on our way home, we're going home"), and started thinking about the unusual time signature changes in the song. Most of it's in 4/4, but with the odd bar of 2/4 and 3/4 dropped in. For example:

  • when they sing "someone's", "arriving", "letters", "latches" etc, it's a bar of 2/4.
  • The "We're on our way home" section is mostly in 3/4, but has a 2/4 bar for "we're going home".

It got me thinking about other Beatles songs with odd time signatures. The obvious ones are Happiness Is A Warm Gun, which I daren't try and untangle, and Good Morning Good Morning, which is all over the place. I've also written before about the bar of 2/4 that's in Revolution and Revolution 1 ("We-eel you").

Are there any others?

(For those who don't understand time signatures, try tapping a steady beat of 1, 2, 3, 4 during Two Of Us. You may find that it doesn't follow a straight sequence, and occasionally goes 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4. In basic terms, a 1, 2 bar would be 2/4, and 1, 2, 3 would be 3/4.)

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5 May 2010
4.55pm
PeterWeatherby
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The most obvious one that comes to my mind is "Here Comes The Sun".  It's in 4/4 for the majority, but the bridge ("Sun, sun, sun, here it comes") breaks into a weird combo of 3/4, 5/4, 2/4, etc.  It's a real rat's nest to untangle. 

I can't prove it at the moment, but I seem to remember that "Across The Universe" has some odd bars of dropped beats as well; it's like John just got tired of strumming and decided to start the next verse on-the-spot.  That sort of thing.

This doesn't fall into the category of odd time signatures, per se, but I once thought that the second verse of "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" went into an irregular meter, until I realized that the drum snap was just inconsistently placed (it falls on the half-beat of 4 the first three times, then it switches to the half-beat of 1 for no apparent reason – it's very cool).

Not a bit like Cagney.
5 May 2010
7.29pm
Joe
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Ah yes, in Across The Universe there's a bar of 5/4 just before 'Pools of sorrow, waves of joy'. 'Possessing and caressing me' is also a bar of 2/4 and one of 4/4 (or even a single bar of 6/4). They do the same in the final verse ('Inciting and inviting me').

The second verse is more conventional, but has an extra beat before the chorus. I think irregular songs tended to come more from Lennon than McCartney, in part because he often wrote his lyrics first and fitted the music around them. Across The Universe is a prime example of that, as is Good Morning.

You're right about Here Comes The Sun too. It's a bastard to play the drums on Rock Band during that song, as it stops following a regular 4/4 beat. They must have been incredibly intuitive musicians to all make that work.

I forgot to mention Rain, which has a bar of 2/4 just before the first chorus. I still don't know whether they did this on every take of the song, or was a one-off that was performed on the released version. I don't think I've ever heard any outtakes of Rain.

I guess some of this is less about time signatures as such, and more about odd beats that were thrown in or removed on an irregular basis.

One other song that I'll mention here is A Day In The Life. In the introduction The Beatles do a very interesting thing, where the second chord on the guitar is almost played for an extra half beat (the third beat in the bar isn't emphasised), and the piano and bass are also on the off-beat (they appear on the first 'and' if you count a '1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and' rhythm). The first few times I heard it I found it quite hard to follow. The version on Anthology 2 is the same, although the on/off-beats are less pronounced.

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6 May 2010
1.11am
npad21
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We Can Work It Out

"Fighting…"/"Ask You…" sections are in 3/4 for 4 bars

Always catches me off guard on guitar.

2/4 intervals aren't really too odd but they're common in Beatle music; think of the chorus sections of She Said She Said" and "Doctor Robert."

 

Would the changes in The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill be considered time signature or tempo changes? That's always perplexed me.

 

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6 May 2010
1.52am
MrBig
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Dr. Robert's Key signatures and Time signatures turned me off. One of the worst Beatles songs.

 

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6 May 2010
11.40am
McLerristarr
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All You Need Is Love has time signatures of 7/4, 4/4 and 6/4.  Apparently it was the first (and one of only two) songs with a 7/4 time signature to reach the top 20 in the USA.

6 May 2010
12.52pm
Joe
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Was the other one Money by Pink Floyd?

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6 May 2010
2.25pm
McLerristarr
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Yes it was apparently. I'm getting my info from Wikipedia though – I'm hoping it's right. Money got to #13 so that means All You Need Is Love is the only US top ten and number 1 hit with 7/4 time – that record will take a while to beat.

7 May 2010
12.21am
c64wood
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The End.  At the end of the the guitar breaks when it's just the piano playing eigth notes.  The piano notes don't change, but the time signature changes around it.  From a 4/4 to a 3/4 and slows back to a 4/4.  It is pure genius!

 

I could listen to Abbey Road side 2 over and over.

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7 May 2010
3.31am
Marcelo
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Joe said:

Was the other one Money by Pink Floyd?


 

Wait a minute: What about "Spoonman" by Soundgarden? That's 7/4 too, I think.

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7 May 2010
2.13pm
McLerristarr
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Marcelo said:

Joe said:

Was the other one Money by Pink Floyd?


 

Wait a minute: What about "Spoonman" by Soundgarden? That's 7/4 too, I think.


 

I don't think it was a hit on the Billboard Hot 100 or 200 though.

7 May 2010
3.52pm
Marcelo
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McLerristarr said:

Marcelo said:

Joe said:

Was the other one Money by Pink Floyd?


 

Wait a minute: What about "Spoonman" by Soundgarden? That's 7/4 too, I think.


 

I don't think it was a hit on the Billboard Hot 100 or 200 though.


 

Sorry, I thought that this counts as Top 20:

Chart positions

Chart (1994) Position
US Mainstream Rock Trackshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S…..ard.com-14

 

I'd like to say "thank you" on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we passed the audition. John Lennon
8 May 2010
12.30pm
McLerristarr
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Yeah, that's were I looked it up too. According to that page, it didn't even chart on the Billboard Hot 100, which is the main chart for the US, and the one people usually mean when they just say "number 1 in the US" or something. It's confusing with all the different charts, I don't see the point of it. They need a better way of counting the sales so that different charts cannot get different results, as what happened to Please Please Me.

9 May 2010
2.39pm
mjb
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'She Said She Said' also has a time signature change……..

"If we feel our heads starting to swell.....we just look at Ringo!"
12 May 2010
3.25pm
PeterWeatherby
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I finally looked it up because it was driving me crazy: the bridge from "Here Comes The Sun" alternates between 3/8, 5/8, and 4/4.  It's messy.  But it sounds GREAT!

Incidentally, do any of you other musician-types own that gigantic book of Beatles' music called The Complete Scores?  It has musical notation for all of the instrumentation, guitars, bass, drums, horns, strings, whatever.  It's a decent book, even if it does have a few misprints (in both the lyrics and the music); it's hilarious to me to read the "score" for Revolution 9.  Oh to have been a fly on the wall for that transcribing session … ("Seriously, Olaf, do we have to include this?  I mean, it's not even really a song, is it?"  "Hush, Sven, I'm trying to decide if this ambulance siren should be notated in the key of E-flat, or in F-sharp with accidentals.")

Not a bit like Cagney.
5 June 2010
3.15am
Brother_Mustard
Newfoundland, Canada
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PeterWeatherby said:

I finally looked it up because it was driving me crazy: the bridge from "Here Comes The Sun" alternates between 3/8, 5/8, and 4/4.  It's messy.  But it sounds GREAT!

Incidentally, do any of you other musician-types own that gigantic book of Beatles' music called The Complete Scores?  It has musical notation for all of the instrumentation, guitars, bass, drums, horns, strings, whatever.  It's a decent book, even if it does have a few misprints (in both the lyrics and the music); it's hilarious to me to read the "score" for Revolution 9.  Oh to have been a fly on the wall for that transcribing session … ("Seriously, Olaf, do we have to include this?  I mean, it's not even really a song, is it?"  "Hush, Sven, I'm trying to decide if this ambulance siren should be notated in the key of E-flat, or in F-sharp with accidentals.")


 

Haha, I've been lurking on these boards for a long time, but that's one of the funniest things I've reada-hard-days-night-george-9

Just out of curiosity, were the people who made the book actually named Olaf and Sven, or did you just make those names up?… and even as I'm typing this, I just read it over, pictured it in my head, and started laughing again a-hard-days-night-ringo-9

5 June 2010
12.16pm
mjb
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PeterWeatherby said:

Incidentally, do any of you other musician-types own that gigantic book of Beatles' music called The Complete Scores?  


I bought it when it first came out – cost an absolute fortune a-hard-days-night-ringo-14 I think it was about £45…………around 16 years ago???? Anyway, it is good if you want to tinker along……..but I haven't got round to guitar picking to Revolution 9…..YET :-)

"If we feel our heads starting to swell.....we just look at Ringo!"
5 June 2010
1.13pm
Joe
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Oh I meant to reply to this before but forgot. I'd love to see that Revolution 9 score.

I might try and get a copy of this book. I don't really read music any more (lack of practice means it takes me forever) but it'd be nice to have on the shelves to refer to now and then. Plus, this is the book Walter Everett refers to throughout The Beatles As Musicians, mentioning points A, B, C etc in the song scores. Without the scores you can normally work out what he's talking about, but it'd be useful to have the two side by side.

Brother_Mustard (hi, welcome, glad you decided to post rather than lurk!) – Amazon.co.uk lists the author as Tim Cain. No Olafs or Svens mentioned!

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5 June 2010
2.56pm
mjb
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Joe said:

Plus, this is the book Walter Everett refers to throughout The Beatles As Musicians, mentioning points A, B, C etc in the song scores. Without the scores you can normally work out what he's talking about, but it'd be useful to have the two side by side.

I din't know that – wish I did when I read Everett – duh! 

"If we feel our heads starting to swell.....we just look at Ringo!"
5 June 2010
6.49pm
MrBig
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Hey Jude had some odd time signatures. One was 17/32. Another was 49/64 I believe.

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