How To COUNT Complex Time Signatures | Even If It's Dream Theater

Tommaso Zillio

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counting time signatures

Yes yes, we all know the old joke that drummers can only count up to 4 because they never need to get up to 5…

… unless your their name is Mike Portnoy or Neil Peart…

… and if you ever tried to figure out what these drummers do with time signatures, you may hare realized that you yourself have problems counting more than 4!

I sure did! I love complex time signatures, but they got me stumped for a while…

…. but in time I have developed a system that I use to count time signatures that works in difficult situations like:

  • the song is too fast to count (“onetwothreefourfive… d#$%, I lost it again!”)
  • the time signature changes
  • there are complex accents

And I also never explained this method in video before… because…

… uhm…

… because it looks really silly when I do it.

You can totally expect several comments on this video on how people will not be able to take me seriously ever again.

So why I am explaining it now?

Because a student asked me how I do it during a lesson… and we were recording that lesson and there were a lot more students present…

… and I answered without thinking. That’s what happens when I am ‘in the zone’ while teaching…

So I figured, cat’s out of the bag, might as well get out of the closet with my ridiculous-but-effective time-signature-counting system.

I will show you how I count time signatures… then I will do it step by step with you in a couple songs with odd time signatures so you can see exactly how it works.

Watch the video here - and don’t laugh too much :-)

And now that you’ve learned the method… it’s time to do a little bit of practice to solidify your learning.

Don’t worry, it’s going to be fun :) In this video I show you a few songs in 5/4. Try to count them and see of you count them out correctly:

Slightly harder than the video above: the next video has songs in 7/4.

Again, try to count them and see if you get the right answer:

And now it’s time for me to promote something (hey, at least I’m upfront with it!)

If you want to know how to start from a chord progression and write a nifty guitar pat that you can play in studio and sound professional… then check out the Complete Chord Mastery guitar course


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