Celebrity Deaths ›

The Dave Brubeck Beat

Getty Images / Michael Ochs Archives / Waring Abbott

The Dave Brubeck Beat

When Dave Brubeck died yesterday at the age of 91, a bit of jazz history went with him. Brubeck was one of the greatest jazz pianists of the last century, an innovator whose progressive jazz influenced generations of musicians. And he liked to do things a little differently….

The Brubeck Beat
Most popular music has a familiar rhythm – a rhythm used so often it's called "common time." If you can clap along to a song on the off beats, it's probably written in common time or 4/4. If it sounds more like a waltz – ONE two three, ONE two three – that's 3/4 time. Those two rhythms represent almost every jazz, rock and blues song ever written.

Except Dave Brubeck's music. Brubeck was known for writing and performing songs in unusual rhythms – most notably "Take Five," written by Dave Brubeck Five sax player Paul Desmond. The title of the song comes from its rhythm, which is 5/4 time. Where you'd hear three beats in a waltz or four in a rock song, you hear five in Brubeck’s jazz classic.

Brubeck experimented with other rhythms and released entire albums in which he played around with different times – like Time Out and Time Further Out, which included his first piece in 7/4 time, "Unsquare Dance."

"Blue Rondo a la Turk" was written in both 9/8 and 4/4 times.

Any time you listen to Dave Brubeck, his music is likely to challenge your idea of rhythm. And what a catchy challenge it is.