Play better rhythm - 5/8 and 5/4 time signatures

Step outside the 4/4 signature and open up the possibilities of 5-based timings

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Image 2 of 6 5 4 Playalong
5/4 - Playalong
© Mike Goodman
Image 3 of 6 Tab 5 8 time signatures
Ex1: 5/8 time signature - The first example here is inspired by Sting's uses of odd time signatures on Ten Summoner's Tales. It emphasises the flavour of 5/8; once you've got used to the feel see what you can come up with on your own.
© Mike Goodman
Image 4 of 6 5 8 Playalong
5/8 - Playalong
© Mike Goodman
Image 5 of 6 Tab 5 4 time signature
Ex2: 5/4 time signature - Example 2 has a Soundgarden grunge vibe to it with the drum pattern emphasising the five beats in a bar of 5/4. In addition to the odd time signature, the riff repeats using a three bar phrase adding to the overall quirky feel. Kim Thayil would often double the main riff with a single note line an octave higher as in a second guitar part.
© Mike Goodman
Image 6 of 6 5 8 and 5 4 time signatures Full Track
5/8 and 5/4 time signatures - Full Track
© Mike Goodman

For many guitarists, any time signature other than 4/4 can prove a nightmare to play and 'feel'.

Here, we're looking at the irregular time signatures of 5/8 and 5/4. Although both can be subdivided into rhythmic groupings of 2+3 or 3+2, the drums can help as quarter notes (5/4 time) or eighth notes (5/8).

A bar of 5/4 lasts for five beats and seems like a 'stretched' version of 4/4 with the snare often on beats 2, 4 and 5. For 5/8, a bar only lasts for two and a half beats (five eighth notes) often with one snare hit occurring either on the third eighth note (marking the second grouping of three in a 2+3 grouping) or the fourth eighth note (marking the second grouping of two in the grouping 3+2). The two examples in this tutorial show the difference between the two.

Click 'see all pictures' in the picture box for full-sized tab.

Audio: Full track (5/4 and 5/8 time signatures)

Audio: 5/4 playalong

Audio: 5/8 playalong