Time Signature - 5/4 Meter

Irregular Time Signature Video Tutorial

5/4 Meter is an irregular time signature that is more complex than the typical 4/4 or 3/4 time signatures. It is somewhat uncommon, but it is important to learn about it and get an appreciation for what it offers music in general.

Until the late 19th century, this time signature was rarely used in Western music. Today, many musicians have used this irregular time signature. A few examples are: "Take 5" by Dave Brubeck,"Morning Bell" by Radiohead, "Living In The Past" by Jethro Tull, "Kids Gloves" (parial) by Rush, "Seven Days" by Sting, and "River Man" by Nick Drake. The Mission: Impossible theme song is also written in the 5/4 timing.

In the 5/4 meter, there are 5 counts for a measure and each quarter note gets one beat. When counting in this time signature, you may count 1-2-3-4-5 -1-2-3-4-5. Some players prefer to break up the counting to be 1-2-3-1-2 - 1-2-3-1-2. If you are counting in this style, each measure is generally broken down into two different segements.

These segments can either be three counts and then two counts (like the example), or two counts and then three counts. For another example, the beats can sound like the syllables in the following words: "Flamingo Parrot" or"Parrot Flamingo." Whichever way you decide to count, it is good to do this before you play a piece to become familiar with the timing. This type of pattern may feel odd at first, but after you play it smoothly and steady it will become more natural for you.


We recommend the lessons on piano rhythm exercises to help you become a better player.