Rhythm, in music, is the placement of sounds in time. In its most general sense rhythm (Greek rhythmos, derived from rhein, “to flow”) is an ordered alternation of contrasting elements. The notion of rhythm also occurs in other arts (e.g., poetry, painting, sculpture, and architecture) as well as in nature (e.g., biological rhythms).

What is the connection between signatures, meters and beats? How do we classify signatures like 7/8, 10/8 and 11/8 to odd meters? What is actually an odd meter, to start with? As explained in the previous lesson, the concept of meter in music derives in large part from the poetic meter of song and includes not only the basic rhythm of the foot, pulse-group or figure used but also the rhythmic or formal arrangement of such figures into musical phrases (lines, couplets) and of such phrases into melodies, passages or sections (stanzas, verses) to give what Holst (1963, 18) calls “the time pattern of any song”. Meter is often essential to any style of dance music, such as the waltz or tango, that has instantly recognizable patterns of beats built upon a characteristic tempo and measure.

So odd meters are meters that contain both simple and compound beats. Read below to understand.

Understanding Odd Meters


Odd Meters and Mandolins

Summarising the above, to identify a meter type, we start by counting how many beats a measure contains. Mandolinists have a simple tool to do that, their pick. Picking with its up-down movement greatly helps in counting notes and beats.

When we have to play an odd meter, it is first essential to understand the rhythm, i.e. how the odd meter is divided to simple and compound meters. For example, is a 7/8 signature to be played as 3-2-2 or 2-3-2 or even 2-2-3? Fortunately, the composers and arrangers know this issue and to help the performers, they usually write notes in measures in a way to indicate the rhythm, i.e. a 7/8 meter to be played as 3-2-2 will most probably have the three first 16th notes of each meter connected to indicate that. So before starting playing this nice greek music you always wanted to play, take a look at the sheet music. The key is there!

All Basic articles in the Mandolin Theory series




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