Music education always & always looking forward.

Asymmetrical Simple Meter in Two Door Cinema Club's "Do You Want It All?"

Do your students have trouble counting to seven?  Serious question.  Because my students do. 

In Chorus, we do a warm-up/stretch that I refer to as "Countdown" (which I stole from another director because that's the way music teachers operate!).  They shake one hand or foot at a time, each to the count of eight.  And then each hand or foot at a time, counting to seven, then to six, then to five, etc.  

The only problem is, that they count to eight extremely rhythmically, and to six, and especially to four, and to three, and two and then one.  But every time they count to seven or five, they wait an extra beat when they're done counting.  Meaning, of course, they have trouble with asymmetrical simple meter.  

I haven't seen the research on it, but it seems that kids can understand 3/4 just fine.  Technically, 3/4 is a form of asymmetrical simple meter, but way more common than other "odd" meters such as 5/4 or 7/4, two time signatures that students often have major problems with.  How to fix that?  Expose them to music that's written in 5/4 or 7/4, or heck, even 11/4.  And I don't think it would hurt if some of the music you exposed them to happened to be of the 2010s indie rock variety (such as Two Door Cinema Club) rather than romantic era ballets.  

"Do You Want It All?" – Two Door Cinema Club

Intro: Formed in 2007 and hailing from Northern Ireland, Two Door Cinema Club has released several records on independent labels in the UK as well as the US. “Do You Want It All?” is found on the band’s 2010 debut, Tourist History, which attained a #26 spot on the US Independent Albums chart, as well as a #16 and #1 rank on the Irish Albums chart and the Irish Independent Albums chart, respectively. The album won the Choice Music Prize for the 2010 Irish Album of the Year. 

Analysis: The song is in 7/4 time, although it seems to fall out of any apparent meter as all of the instruments cease playing, leaving only the vocal track to continues. The vocal break (starting at 1:55 in the video recording below) appears to lose time, but upon further rhythmic analysis, the entire song is in 7/4, with the breaks all played & sung in rhythm.  The beginning of the song is easy to analyze, because an extra eighth note occurs in the drum figure on beat 7, ending every measure.  

Considerations for Teaching: This song contains no inappropriate language or subject matter with lyrics that are generally unclear as to their subject matter (in the tradition of many alternative and indie rock songs).  This makes it a good listening example in class to teach asymmetrical simple meter.

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