The Unique Groove of 7/8 Time...

Learning how to play in an odd-time signature can be a bit challenging at first. This is especially true if you’re only used to playing in 4/4.

In this post we'll try a clapping exercise that will help you develop the feel for playing in 7/8 time signature, plus we'll run down how to play your first 7/8 guitar part...

As you can imagine, the time signature and feel of 7/8 involves performing 7 eighth-notes per measure. If you already have some experience with time signatures involving an "8" on the bottom of the signature, you already know that this is a "Compound Meter."

This type of feel will generally have a number divisible by three on the top of the signature. The most popular of these time signatures include; "3/8, 6/8 and 9/8."

The flow of common time signatures using this meter are all triplet based, so the appearance of a "7" above the signature is a little bit like throwing a wrench into the machinery.

To understand this will mean that you'll need to know how the numbers of a time signature relate to the way you count it out, and to what you'll find in a measure of your music.

CLAPPING 7/8: Most guitarists who use odd-time tend to split the odd-time signatures into groups of two and three counts. Counting to seven is a little too out of balance, therefore, we end up splitting this odd meter into smaller groupings of 8th notes like 2-2-3.

This way, you can count patterns in 7/8 like so:

1,    2   -    1,    2    -    1,    2,    3

Try clapping the beats shown above. You can then use any melodic idea or rhythm guitar technique featured on any of my websites for coming up with some fresh ideas in 7/8 odd-time signature. How do you achieve that? Keep reading...

The top number of 4/4 means that there are four counts in a measure. The bottom number of 4/4 means that the quarter note takes those counts. In a measure of 4/4 time you have eight 8th notes. So you can actually think of 4/4 as being 8/8.

If you remove one of the 8th notes from 8/8 you get 7/8. By removing a single 8th note from any pattern in 4/4 time you get a new one in 7/8 time. If you’d like to explore this concept right away, just tap a pencil on a desk and count; 1, 2 - 1, 2 - 1, 2, 3

Now that you understand the general application of 7/8, let's jump into performing a cool guitar riff that applies this time signature.


click on the image above to enlarge full-screen

This is a very basic 7/8 groove that should be mastered by every guitar player. When you start playing around with odd time signatures you will be surprised at the improvements you will see in every other aspect of your guitar feel and rhythm.

Your sense of time will be boosted due to the gaining of experience with another type of rhythmic feel. Practice this groove until you can play it no problem without even counting out loud. After awhile, the feel of 7/8 time signature will not be very odd to you anymore.



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