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5/4 time - how do you count it ?

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  • 5/4 time - how do you count it ?

    This week it is time to tackle Take Five

    Any suggestions for how to count this ?


  • #2

    Simple: "1-2-3-4-5"

    However, Take Five does have a distinctive rhythm (adopted by many 5/4 pieces), which many people find easier to feel than a regular 5-beat count.  It's indicated by the chord vamp and the bass line, dividing the bar into 3+2 (3 beats Ebm, 2 beats Bbm). 

    The 3/4 section is a jazz waltz rhythm, which has its own cross-rhythm (very common in jazz waltzes). (Hopefully the following will display in proportional font, with proper spacing and the beats lined up.  If not, try choosing Courier font, and if that doesn't work I'll try a different strategy...)

              |5/4                 |
              |Ebm         Bbm     |
    1/4 notes |1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 5 . |
              |3/4         2/4     |
              |1 . 2 . 3 .|1 . 2 . |
     PIANO RH |  x     x  |    x   |
     PIANO LH |x     x    |x       |
         BASS |x          |x   x   |

    The possible problem here is that beat 2 of the 3/4 is silent.  But if you're OK with jazz waltzes in general that shouldn't be an issue.

    If the 8ths were straight (not swung) it could be regarded as 6/8+2/4, which better indicates the rhythm of the 3/4 bar:

              |5/4                 |
              |Ebm         Bbm     |
    1/4 notes |1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 5 . |
              |6/8         2/4     |
              |1 . . 2 . .|1 . 2 . |
     PIANO RH |  x     x  |    x   |
     PIANO LH |x     x    |x       |
         BASS |x          |x   x   |

    You hear this 6/8+2/4 division better realised in Jethro Tull's Living In The Past:





    • BenTunessence
      BenTunessence commented
      Editing a comment

      Like JonR said, the first three beats of the 5/4 rhythm are felt as a Jazz Waltz ("one-and   and-three").  The next two beats are a simple "one two".


      "one-and   and-three, one two"


      A strategy I've found useful for getting into this rhythm is to first get very comfortable with the jazz waltz feel.  Here are some good examples to get you swinging:

      "Skating" - Vince Guaraldi

      "My Favorite Things" - perf. John Coltrane


      Once you can feel the jazz waltz, try adding a simply "one two" count on the end.

  • #3

    Ayend ...

    It's jazz. You can also go 2 - 3 .

    If you pair measures:

    2 2 3 3

    2 3 3 2

    3 3 2 2

    3 2 2 3

    etc ...


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    • windmill
      windmill commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks for the advice
      I'll try and put it into practice