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Exploring 5s and Free Metered Music

Popular Music has Failed Us!

Popular music, though fun (I'll the first to admit that I LOVE some of the older music like "Knock 3 Times", "Lean on Me", etc.), has dumbed down our musical brains!

It's true. We've been conditioned in the popular music genre to count to 3 or 4. Done! (Let's not even mention the incredibly boring chord progressions!)

Occasionally we run into some interesting time signatures and those songs become hits because the rhythm and feel of them is so strikingly different that people remember them! Songs such Hallelujah (12/8), She's Always a Woman (12/8, 6/8, 9/8) or the Mission Impossible Theme (5/4).  It turns we love unusual rhythm'd music! 

The 5 Rhythm

So, along that line of thought, I thought I'd introduce you to a recording that a fellow pianist, Lee Shiel, recorded for me. It's a 5. Being that it's not written out, I can't tell you what kind of note gets one beat, an eighth note (5/8) or a quarter note (5/4), but I can tell you, it's a 5!

As you listen to it, you'll discover that beat 4 and 5 have strong accents on them, as well as beat 1. Then, just to add some colour, he put an accent on the '&' of beat 2!  This is the same rhythm as Mission Impossible! 

Try counting it!  1   &   4   5 | 1   &   4  5 |

Have a listen on the FB video link that I posted below!  I've had pianists tricked by it so be kind to yourself if you don't get it right away, or even at all.

Facebook Video: Lee playing 5

Mission Impossible Theme

So, in addition to the lack of vibrant and unusual time signatures in the music that most of us hear on a regular basis, there is also a lack of non-metered, or free metered music.  This is music whose rhythm is not based on a beat 1. It's not structured the way we understand music to be structured.

Free Metered Music

Free metered music was common in the Gregorian era via chanting and singular instrumentation. It can also be found in some Asian music as well as Eastern European music. Here is a gorgeous recording performed by Teruhisa Fukudaof a free metered piece of music called Shakuhachi; in English, The Distant Call of the Deer.  Gorgeous!

To use free metered music, dancers need to memorize the choreography in phrases. Phrase 1, phrase 2, etc. There are no counts.

In Conclusion

Expose yourself and your students to unusual meters like polonaises, mazurkas, 9/8s, tangos, czardas, etc. Maybe not a 5, but, maybe?! You never know what you or your students will latch onto as a rhythm that not only works, but quickly becomes a favourite!


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