Dave Brubeck's famous hit "Take Five" is traditionally arranged in performed in 5/4 time. My jazz ensemble instructor, however, said he once witnessed a performance of "Take Five" in a "funky 4/4 time." I was wondering how it is possible to manipulate a time signature to yield such an effect…how would the beats be adjusted to create the new rhythm?

Moreover, is there any purpose of doing this rather than for fun and for sake of variation? (not that those aren't great reasons to play with the elements of jazz)

  • I've reworked 4/4 songs into 5/4 - the first two crotchets in the bar became dotted crotchets. – No'am Newman Mar 7 '15 at 5:51
  • Lullaby of Birdland translates into 5 time well – Tim Mar 7 '15 at 8:32
  • Here is a very funky 4/4 arrangement: youtube.com/watch?v=ouEmiXtIxHc – user19292 Mar 7 '15 at 11:29
  • 2
    Tito Puente's version youtube.com/watch?v=KB4iVzf10lY – Chris Mar 8 '15 at 14:59
  • Not surprisingly, NReilingh's proposed mechanism for the funky variant of Take Five exactly matches what I hear in the drums on the Tito Puente video. – Joshua Siktar Mar 9 '15 at 2:07

You can't do this algorithmically -- or I really mean to say you shouldn't. But as a musician and arranger, there are infinite possibilities to take some material and rework it into a different format.

To the specific example of "Take Five", consider the 5/4 rhythm groove:

5 | 1   2   3   4   5   |
4 | e e - e e - q   q   |

For me, I answer the question of "how would I play this groove in 4/4?" with the following:

4 | 1   2   3   4   |
4 | e e - e q   q   |

... which could easily be made to have a reggae feel.

I've left out some notes to accomplish this -- since a groove effectively is the rhythm, you can't really avoid that. But for the melody you don't have to leave out any notes at all -- the rhythms can be compressed and modified to "economize out" the missing beat.

Again, not algorithmically; putting the entire melody into 5:4 tuplets would be pretty uninspired. But you can get creative, shortening held notes and compressing rhythms, but mostly trying to retain the points of emphasis that exist in the original melody and rhythm/articulation.

A simple but good guide to this would be to try to retain the placement of beat 1 of each bar after translating. (In other words, make the note that occurs on beat 1 of every bar in 5/4 translate to the first beat of every bar in 4/4.)

As to the question of why? Well, it's fun, it's memorable (as evidenced by your jazz ensemble instructor), and of course making your ears and internal rhythmic clock do "weird" stuff can only benefit you as a musician.

  • I indeed have heard reggae versions of Take Five in bars. A quick Youtube search brings several results. – Édouard Mar 7 '15 at 5:28
  • I think this is very helpful for analyzing "Take Five." What's more, this advice can be generalized to other pieces as well. Since my major concert just ended, I have some time to play around with it and some other pieces just to see what I can concoct. – Joshua Siktar Mar 7 '15 at 15:26

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