7 Iconic Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Songs With Odd Time Signatures

By Magesh MageshContributing Author

Article photo - 7 Iconic Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Songs With Odd Time Signatures


I was always fascinated with music that was in odd time. From my experience as a musician, it was usually from a guitarist playing an unusually long riff. The reason it went into odd time was because it couldn't fit into traditional 4/4 timing. I was even more impressed when a band could change time signatures within a song. I felt this showed musicianship at the highest level.

I have chosen songs that have odd time bars and that are in odd time. Please check out the YouTube links to hear some great music!


1. Metallica - One

As far as odd times go this song is a masterpiece! The song starts in 4/4 time in the guitar intro. As soon as the drums come in at 53 seconds it switches to ¾ time. The verses are in ¾ but have an accent in 2/4 time on the 8th bar of the progression. Then the chorus is in 6/4 Time.

This is a great example of a song that changes time signatures. The melody and song structure are so amazing you don't realize how technically difficult this is to play.


2. Soundgarden - Outshined

This heavy guitar riff is unusually long. It pushed the whole song into 7/4 timing. The beauty of 7/4 is it is 1 beat short of 2 bars of 4/4 timing so it doesn't seem too unusual for the listener. Chris Cornell's vocal phrasing is extra impressive as he has no problem fitting lyrics in 7/4 timing.


3. Led Zeppelin - The Ocean

Known for epic guitar riffs and wailing singer Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin was one of the great early hard rock bands. The riff for this song is very clever because it is played over 2 bars. The first bar is in 4/4 time while the second bar is in 7/8. This makes the riff feel like it is coming in early because there is 1 less 8th note in the phrase. What makes this especially cool is that it is played as an instrumental in the intro and with vocals in the chorus.


4. Living Colour - Cult of Personality

This song is truly unique with its mix of hard-hitting guitar riffs, a driving backbeat, and soulful vocals. Living Colours band members had experience playing in other genres like jazz and fusion before the group formed. This is easy to see with this song structure. Once the drums come in the intro it is in 4/4 time. Although the 3rd bar goes into ¾ time. This gives guitar virtuoso Vernon Reid a chance to extend the song's main riff. This only happens once in the whole song which makes it even cooler.


5. Nine Inch Nails - March of the Pigs

This song can be super confusing to listen to until you understand the time signatures. Its main beat seems to flip upside down every other bar. The band has cleverly repeated 3 bars of 7/8 timing and then 1 bar of 4/4 timing. Putting the bar of 4/4 at the end of the phrase helps give the song some structure that is familiar to listeners.


6. Dream Theatre - The Dance of Eternity

This song has almost too many time signature changes to list! It switches back and forth from 4/4 to ¾ to 7/8. A tip on working out a time signature is to listen to the guitar riff NOT the drums. The drummer is constantly improvising over the beat making it nearly impossible to hear.


7. Soundgarden - Spoonman

This is a great example of switching between 4/4 timing and 7/4 timing. Playing things in 7 usually makes the song feel weird but not in this case. The drummer Matt Cameron plays a great drum break at 2.52. The changing time signatures almost make the breakdown section sound like a shuffle due to the 'jump' in the rhythm.

About Magesh Magesh

Magesh is a musician and producer who has worked with Rihanna, Lionel Richie, Ricky Martin, Chris Brown, The Pussy Cat Dolls, Nelly Furtado, and Vernon Reid of Living Colour. He released an instructional drumming DVD called "Unique Beats" where he mixed the drum kit with electronics and Indian hand percussion. He recently moved from Australia to the UK to explore new musical opportunities.
Website: mageshdrumteacher.co.uk

Contact Magesh Magesh at magesh.magesh7@gmail.com

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