Uneven Time

In uneven time

  • There are both simple and compound time beats to the bar
  • The natural accent is not in multiples of 2 or 3.

Uneven time signatures are common in traditional Greek and Turkish dances and in modern jazz.

Both simple and compound beats

5 – 8 Uneven time
2 beats to the bar, one simple and one compound.
7 – 8 Uneven time
3 beats to the bar, 2 simple and one compound.
9 – 8 Uneven time
4 beats to the bar, 3 simple and one compound.

In dance music the compound beat is at the start or end of the bar, dependent on the dance step. Dance music must adhere to the step.

In modern jazz the proportion of simple and compound beats and their placement is constrained only by the music’s inherant pulse and the imagination of the composer.

The compound beat can be found anywhere in the bar, so long as it adheres to the music’s pulse.The proportion of compound and simple beats is at the composer’s discretion. The number of beats is dependent on this proportion.
Here is an example jazz piece in 7 – 8 time composed by Joe Paparone.

When the natural accent is not in multiples of 3 or 4

5 – 4 and 7 – 4 are uneven time signatures.

At the composer’s discretion, the beats may be all simple or a mixture of simple and compound.

If the beats are all simple the number of beats to the bar is indivisible by 2 or 3 (thus uneven).