How Progressive Music Leads To Progressive Thinking

The art of playing music in a progressive fashion is one that requires some skill but not a whole lot. It’s more of switch, a trigger or a button that is pushed and enlightens you to compose or think in an“out of the box manner”.

The 4/4 Time Signature

Most music is played in a 4/4 time signature with a pretty easy tempo meaning the base is typically falling on 1 and 3 while the snare is on the 2 and 4.

You can count this out on your lap 1,2,3,4 repeat 1,2,3,4. You can hear this tempo in most popular beats.

The music will typically sound something like this:

or this

Very easy listening, most of this type of tempo is seen in pop, country, hip hop dance and some techno music ( dup step has embraced the progressive in the drops).

There is nothing wrong with this type of music, I listen to it often but it didn't make me the musician I am today it was merely a stepping stone to something bigger

Enter Progression and Challenging the Outer Limits

Progressive Properties

1) Longer songs (or “epics”)

2) Time changes (e.g., odd time signatures)

3) More complex, sophisticated instrumentation and compositions

4) Superior vocals

5) More complex conceptual ideas / Heightened, lyrical content

While all of these elements play a role in making a song or “album” more progressive I just want to focus on the odd time signature part as this seems to be the hardest part to grasp, as writing a 10 minute long song with some big words is pretty easy but the composing a song with the changing time signatures and still sounding appeasing can be very difficult.

For instances Pink Floyd’s Us and Them

This Song covers most of the prog elements listed above but not all of them. The time signature stays the same.

What is an Odd Time Signature?

Unlike 4/4 these time signatures are not something that are easy to dance to in the “club” kinda of sense as the snare will typically fall of the 2 and 4 rhythm we had previously. This Music is thought provoking and can be somewhat mesmerizing and even draining on the mind as it is not that easy to comprehend which some may interpret as offering little to no value but that is a completely separate argument.

Here is an easy example for you, 7/8 time signature from the song cat like thief by box car racer.

The beats stays the same but imagine if the time signatures kept changing and were not consistent as it brings on a new challenge.

Early pioneers of progressive music:


King Crimson

The Mighty Led Zeppelin

So where is progressive music today? It’s roots are still in rock but the flow has gotten a bit heavier for some artists.

Some Epics to Consider to broaden your spectrum of music:

Between the Buried and Me: Parallax 2: Future Sequence

Dream Theater
Coheed and Cambria

Challenge your mind in every way possible…as this type of thinking can be carried over into many different subject matters and various forms of study. You can create music outside the conventional time signatures to create something unique of your own and feel a sense of accomplishment in doing so instead of following the same path as someone else.

Sleep on… fly on. In your mind, you can fly.
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