Tool does a great job of stepping out of the 4/4 time signature, like in their 33/16 pneuma song. However, they still (for the most part) play 4 measures of this 33/16, or 8 or some multiple of 4. Why not 3 or 5 or 7 or something, 6 even? Does anyone have examples of good music that has this feature and breaks out of the "4 measures" mold? Not talking about classical music that is all over the place, but something that explicitly has 3 or 5 or 6 or 7 or something like that, measures, of any time signature. By "good" I mean music that people actually like, not just purely experimental music that accomplishes this but doesn't sound enjoyable.

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    Three weeks late - but would 12 Days of Christmas count?
    – Tim
    Jan 14, 2020 at 15:44
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    @LancePollard, try rewording the "good music" part and make it more objective, then I think your worthwhile question will be reopened. Jan 14, 2020 at 17:57
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    @RosieF because it's in general a bad fit on Q&A sites to have questions with unbound lists. There are always more answers you can add and there's not a definitive answer. Every answer is equally valid as long as it fits the criteria, voting does not signal much on the questions outside a popularity contest for the example(s) themselves. They also tend to attract single answer song + link which typically get flagged as low quality answers.
    – Dom
    Jan 14, 2020 at 18:37
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    Personally I find Stack Exchange to be a perfectly fine place for lists, and for questions with no single definitive answer - though of course it's up to us whether we want them here. Jan 14, 2020 at 19:05
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    If a person were to answer "yes, there are songs with uneven phrase lengths" ...and then can't produce even one example, it's a waste of time. Jan 14, 2020 at 19:17

4 Answers 4


Not sure if this will satisfy the "good music" requirement...

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...Yesterday by The Beatles famously has a seven bar phrase length.

"Examples" is plural, so at least one more...

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...Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles uses a five bar phrase length.

Notice that both examples are phrase lengths of uneven counts in common time.

It's not part of the question, but I think it's interesting to look at who the various phrase lengths are produces.

In Yesterday I think the lyric can be broken up like 1+2+2+2 to get the seven bars. Each line - "all my trouble seemed so far away", "now it looks as though there here to stay", and "oh, I believe in yesterday" - is an even two bars. In front of all that is a single, introductory word - "yesterday", "suddenly" which only needs one bar of time. So it's composed of even unit and a one bar prefix.

In the Eleanor Rigby case the lyrical line is four bars extended with a repetition - "...no one will hear, no one comes near" - which extended a four bar length with one extra bar. So this one too is composed of even unit, but the one bar added to make it uneven is a suffix.

...Not talking about classical music ...not just purely experimental music

It seems the premise behind the question is: music with uneven phrase lengths is not accessible by some common audience standard. I don't think that is the case based on real examples from "popular" music. I also don't think that music with odd time signatures is inaccessible.

A lot of "experimental" band like to use uneven counts. But I don't think there is anything inherently inaccessible about uneven counting. For example, 7/4 is used in some kinds of folk music which seems to me categorically not experimental, not un-popular. Other examples could be given. When an experimental band uses uneven counts to make inaccessible music I think the inaccessible nature comes from other factors ...like tedious guitar and drum solos, dissonant harmonies, etc.


It's not clear whether you mean to exclude all classical music or only classical music that employs irregular meter. In case it is the latter, I offer this example:

There is a lovely trio sonata by Buxtehude (opus 1, number 4) whose first movement is a chaconne built on a three and a half measure long bass.

  • Isn't this a "classical" example which the OP wants to exclude? Jan 14, 2020 at 17:32
  • @MichaelCurtis perhaps I misunderstood the meaning of "all over the place," but I took it to mean music with irregular meter (Stravinsky comes to mind). So I thought that classical music that isn't "all over the place" metrically would be of interest, including this example.
    – phoog
    Jan 14, 2020 at 18:10
  • Hmm, now that I re-read the OP's line about "classical", I don't really understand what he is after in terms of style/genre. Jan 14, 2020 at 18:17

Las ketchup's "Aserejé", which has been a super-mega-hit back in the early 00s, does runs of six measures during the chorus. Not sure if this qualifies as "good music", but surely is a non overtly experimental thing, and people found it enjoyable back then.


Moonlight In Vermont has a 6 bar A section. Also many popular songs (I Got Rhythm for instance) have a 2 bar "tag" towards the end which breaks up the usual 4 bar thing a bit.

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