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Coffee Time – Fred Astaire dancing in 5/4 time – Yolanda and the Thief

Notice that the song is played in 4/4 time, but danced in 5/4 time!

Should be noted that this isn’t a true “5 over 4” polyrhythm, as the band and dancers are sharing a tempo (i.e. the quarter note is the same). They’re just phrasing things so that the band lands on the shared 1 every fifth bar of their 4/4, while the dancers land on the shared 1 every fourth bar of their 5/4.

A true 5 over 4 between band and dancers would have everybody landing on the shared 1 *every* bar. That means they’d be playing two different tempos (i.e. the quarter note would *not* be equal); four of the band’s quarter notes would equal five of the dancer’s quarter notes.

Reminds me of my Pre-Web MIDI Polyrhythms Project from 1993. To hear 5 over 4 realized, check this out.

For fun, watch Mike Portnoy demonstrate the same phrasing principles as the Astaire bit, but on plutonium.

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