Let’s use the Paul Desmond standard ‘Take Five’ as a starting point (Figure A).
Ebm7 is played for 3 beats before changing to Bbm7 for the last 2 beats of the bar (giving us five crotchets in total). This is repeated for the first 7 bars of the A section but let’s just play it as a four bar grouping for the meanwhile. Try playing crotchets on the root notes (Eb and Bb) as a start and get used to hearing and feeling the chord/note movement. This division of 5/4 into 3 beats and 2 beats is very common and accenting beats 4 and 5 can really solidify your feel.
Let’s then add to the accented beats of 4 and 5 by moving from the root note on Bb (Figure B). We now have the Eb root note for beats 1, 2 and 3 moving to the root note of Bbm7 on beat 4 and then a Db on beat 5. Give it a shot and hopefully you’ll hear that even just the one note change adds movement and reinforces the feeling of 5.
With beats 4 and 5 locked in let’s play with the rhythms over Ebm7 (Figure C). Bar 1 holds the Eb for 3 beats whilst Bar 2 adds some syncopation with two quavers, a quaver rest and then a tied Eb again on beat 2+. Bar 3 is a similar idea but with a dotted crotchet on beat 1 (instead of two quavers) and Bar 4 mixes things up by not playing beat 1 (instead coming in on the 1+).
These examples in Figure C add some movement whilst keeping beats 4, 5 and the overall 5/4 feel solid. To create even more momentum you could try walking through these chord changes (check out Figure D). Constant crotchets and quavers keep the bass line moving ahead and add some emphasis to the chord changes (always landing on a root note on beats 1 and 4). This use of the root note helps state the chord with the rest of the line moving towards the next chord. You can try using other chord tones (1, b3, 5, b7) for different sounds and of course mix up the rhythms (with rests) for more variation.
This is just one small excerpt from one tune! There are great examples of 5/4 in rock/funk/jazz/heavy metal too. More odd times next issue.