Top 10 Songs with Unusual / Odd Time Signatures

Time signatures are also known as meter signatures and measure signatures.

"Unusual" time signature is any time signature other than simple time signatures. The most common simple time signatures are 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4. Simple time signatures are with top numerals of 2, 3, or 4 and bottom numerals of 2, 4, or 8, and compound time signatures with top numerals of 6, 9, or 12 and bottom numerals 4, 8, or 16.

Unusual (odd) time signatures are meters like 5/4, 6/4, 19/4, 7/8, 9/8, 13/8, 13/16, 21/16, 23/16, 17/32, 21/32, 1/64, and more.
What's that? It's every drummer's dream and nightmare.

Progressive metal and rock are full with unusual time signatures but prog subgenres aren't the only ones that use them.
Bands like Dream Theater, Tool, and Radiohead are very frequent users of unusual time signatures and they have many songs for this list but I am starting with one song per band.

The Top Ten

1 Money - Pink Floyd Money - Pink Floyd Cover Art

It's predominantly in 7/4 time (guitar solo is in the usual 4/4)

2 The Dance of Eternity - Dream Theater The Dance of Eternity - Dream Theater Cover Art

It's dream theater of course it's gonna have something hard to play and weird. duh

Dream Theater have many songs to choose from for this list. But I have chosen this instrumental because it goes through over 128 time signature changes in 6:13 minutes. It contains beat groupings in 8, 7, 6, 5, and 4.
Was this song the dream of the Dream Theater drummer? Or his nightmare?

3 Bleed - Meshuggah Bleed - Meshuggah Cover Art

Haha, pretty nice djenty!

13/16. Perfect drumming by Tomas Haake.
The bass drum pattern is a repeated sequence of 13/16, followed by one measure of 4/4.
Haake stated that this song was "a big effort for me to learn, I had to find a totally new approach to playing the double bass drums to be able to do that stuff. I had never really done anything like that before like the fast bursts that go all the way through the song basically. So I actually spent as much time practicing that track alone as I did with all of the other tracks combined. It's kind of a big feat to change your approach like that and I'm glad we were able to nail it for the album. For a while though we didn't even know if it was going to make it to the album."
He plays so fluently that at first listen it may not seem difficult to the listener but it's really very intricate.

4 Tom Sawyer - Rush Tom Sawyer - Rush Cover Art

Instrumental section is in 7/8 with some 13/16.

5 Supper's Ready - Genesis Supper's Ready - Genesis Cover Art

9/8 is used in the movement "Apocalypse in 9/8". The subtitle even tells the time measure.

6 Schism - Tool

The band described it as largely in  6 1 ⁄ 2/8 (what?! )
The song has several different times - the verse contains alternating measures of 5/8 and 7/8, while the chorus contains alternating measures of 6/8 and 7/8.

7 Spoonman - Soundgarden Spoonman - Soundgarden Cover Art

Intriguing song too, one about the man of spoons...

It's about a real street performer in Seattle the band knew. He appears in the video to play the spoon solo.

The intro, verses, drum solo and parts of the bridge are in 7/4 (sometimes transcribed as 14/8). The spoons' solo is in 6/8.
Choruses, parts of the bridges and guitar solo are "usual" - in 4/4.

8 Them Bones - Alice in Chains Them Bones - Alice in Chains Cover Art

The verse is in 7/8

9 Tubular Bells, Part 1 - Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells, Part 1 - Mike Oldfield Cover Art

The first riff in 15/8 is made of two bars - the first bar is in 7/8, the second bar is in 8/8.

10 Paranoid Android - Radiohead Paranoid Android - Radiohead Cover Art

Half of the songs here I have on DSi game...

It includes 7/8 and flips between 4/4 time and 7/8 time about 13 times.

The Contenders

11 The Art of Dying - Gojira The Art of Dying - Gojira Cover Art

It includes 21/16. It cycles from 4/4 to 2/4 to 21/16 (grouped 5+5+5+3+3) and repeats this pattern during the intro and beginning of the song.

12 The Becoming - Nine Inch Nails The Becoming - Nine Inch Nails Cover Art
13 The Count of Tuscany - Dream Theater The Count of Tuscany - Dream Theater Cover Art
14 The Sound of Muzak - Porcupine Tree The Sound of Muzak - Porcupine Tree Cover Art
15 A Change of Seasons - Dream Theater A Change of Seasons - Dream Theater Cover Art

Not only loaded with odd time signatures but unpredictable changes all throughout the entire song. I remember the first time listening to it and even after listening to it several or many times it is difficult to comprehend the brilliance and the way it was written. I have listened to mostly Progressive Rock for many years. Dream Theater is something really special and right there with the UK giants of the 70s. This is a large chunck of further proof.

15/8 is used for the 1st verse of the song, broken up into 2 bars - a 6/8 and a 9/8 which equals 15/8 (confirmed by Mike Portnoy himself).
For the 2nd verse he used 2 bars of 6/8 (which equals 12/8) and a bar of 3/8.
Later in the song there are more alternations between all these meters, grouped in a different way.

16 Thick as a Brick - Jethro Tull Thick as a Brick - Jethro Tull Cover Art

Oh interesting I did not know that.

The second section of the first part of the song is in 10/4

17 Ticks and Leeches - Tool

The song is in 7/8. One of Danny Carey's best, if not the best

18 All You Need is Love - The Beatles All You Need is Love - The Beatles Cover Art

Verses are in 7/4

19 Question! - System of a Down Question! - System of a Down Cover Art
20 Windowpane - Opeth Windowpane - Opeth Cover Art

Windowpane is in 4/4

21 Take Five - The Dave Brubeck Quartet Take Five - The Dave Brubeck Quartet Cover Art
22 Starless - King Crimson Starless - King Crimson Cover Art
23 New Millennium Cyanide Christ - Meshuggah New Millennium Cyanide Christ - Meshuggah Cover Art

It repeats the pattern of five bars of 23/16 and one bar of 13/16 from the start.
Sounds like fun...

24 Moon - Bjork Moon - Bjork Cover Art
25 Playing In the Band - Grateful Dead Playing In the Band - Grateful Dead Cover Art

10/4, notated as 4+2+4/4

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