amplified signatureThe chances are high that the majority of the music you have heard or played was set in a 4/4 time signature. Music does not stop there, and by dedicating some time to the studying of alternative time signatures you will even develop a better sense for understanding and analyzing music.

Even though the 3/4 time signature is the second most common, it still can be considered an even time, as it is analogous to 6/8, just as four quarter notes are equivalent to eight eighth notes.

Understanding the Essence of the 7/8 Time Signature

The overall feel of a 7/8 measure will be as if it was an unfinished 4/4 measure. It sounds rather unexpected and you usually have the impression that the drummer forgot to finish his beat.

In order to be able to deliver solid rhythms in this measure, we first have to learn how to count in the 7/8 measure. In the example below I show you the four most common ways to count notes in the 7/8 time signature.

First, you can count every single eighth-note in a measure, like this: “one, two, three, four, five, six, sev” – you should not utter “seven” entirely, as the second syllable might confuse you. The next two variations are the most common. These are “one, two, three, four, one, two, three” and “one, two, three, one, two, three, four”.

There exists another rather accepted way of counting in 7/8, that goes like “one, two, three, one, two, one, two”. In the divided examples I have added a bass drum for every count of “one” – you should practice like this in order to develop a command of this rather odd and nifty time signature.

understanding the 7/8 time signature

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Crafting Basic Beats in This Time Signature

There are two basic ways to compose simple beats in the 7/8 time signature. The first of these (exemplified on the first line below) is based on the augmentation of the most common bass-snare pulsation by adding extra eighth notes on the hi-hat between these two.

The other alternative (see the second line of the example below) is to treat this time signature just the way I described it in the introduction: as an unfinished 4/4. That way, you should just lay a standard 4/4 rock beat over a 7/8 measure and let the unneeded remains fall into the void. This will create a fascinating, interestingly syncopated beat.

Crafting basic 7/8 beats

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Composing and Counting 7/8 Fills Correctly

Just like any other time signature, 7/8 is not limited to rigid, common beats. Drum fills are sort of necessary in almost any kind of music, and the 7/8 time signature provides you with a very interesting and surprisingly simple platform to do that. The only thing you have to do is to count what you play until you have accumulated 7 eighth-notes.

The first example shows the simplest possibility to do this. On the other hand, the second alternative goes a little bit further by incorporating eighth-note and sixteenth-note triplets into a bar of seven eighths. It is all just mathematics, so it is up to you to verify that the examples are correct. The procedure is the same as it is for 4/4 beats.

composing 7/8 fills

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