AskDefine | Define syncopated

Dictionary Definition

syncopated adj : stressing a normally weak beat

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. of a word, shortened by syncope
  2. of a rhythm, modified by syncopation

Extensive Definition

In music, syncopation includes a variety of rhythms which are in some way unexpected in that they deviate from the strict succession of regularly spaced strong and weak beats in a meter (pulse). These include a stress on a normally unstressed beat, or a missing (unplayed) beat (a rest), where one would normally be stressed.
Syncopation is used in many musical styles, if not all, and is fundamental in such styles as funk, reggae, ragtime, rap, jump blues, jazz and often in dubstep, progressive metal, and classical music. "All dance music makes use of [syncopation] and it's often a vital element that helps tie the whole track together". In the form of a back beat, syncopation is used in virtually all contemporary popular music.

Types of syncopation

Technically, "syncopation occurs when a temporary displacement of the regular metrical accent occurs, causing the emphasis to shift from a strong accent to a weak accent." "Syncopation is," however, "very simply, a deliberate disruption of the two- or three-beat stress pattern, most often by stressing an off-beat, or a note that is not on the beat."

Missed-beat syncopation

Syncopation itself may look as simple as follows, involving the addition of a rest. This can occur on any beat in a measure. "The natural stress of the meter has been disrupted -- ONE-two-(three)-FOUR, which is weird, because we want to keep hearing that nonexistent quarter note that would carry the downbeat in the middle of the measure." suggests adding the concept of transformation to Narmour's (1980, p.147-53) prosodic rules which create rhythmic successions in order to explain or generate syncopations. "The syncopated pattern is heard 'with reference to', 'in light of', as a remapping of, its partner." He gives examples of various types of syncopation: latin, backbeat, and before-the-beat. First however, one may listen to the audio example of stress on the "strong" beats, where expected:

Latin equivalent of simple 4/4

This unsyncopated rhythm is shown in the first measure directly below:
The third measure depicts the syncopated rhythm in the following audio example in which the first and fourth beat are provided as expected, but the accent unexpected lands in between the second and third beats, creating a familiar "latin rhythm":

Backbeat transformation of simple 4/4

The accent may be shifted from the first to the second beat in duple meter (and the third to fourth in quadruple), creating the backbeat rhythm familiar in rock drumming beatbox stereotypes:
Different crowds will "clap along" at concerts on either 1 & 3 or 2 & 4, as above.

"Satisfaction" example

Before-the-beat phrasing, combined with backbeat transformation of a simple repeated trochee, which gives the phraseology of "Satisfaction", recommended for its syncopation:

Syncopation in dance music

In trance music the bass falls between the beat (one &), while the kick drum falls on the beat.

See also


  • Seyer, Philip, Allan B. Novick and Paul Harmon (1997). What Makes Music Work. Forest Hill Music. ISBN 0-9651344-0-7.
syncopated in Belarusian: Сінкапа, музыка
syncopated in Catalan: Síncope (música)
syncopated in Czech: Synkopa
syncopated in German: Synkope (Musik)
syncopated in Spanish: Síncopa (música)
syncopated in French: Syncope (musique)
syncopated in Croatian: Sinkopa
syncopated in Italian: Sincope (musica)
syncopated in Hebrew: סינקופה
syncopated in Dutch: Syncope (muziek)
syncopated in Japanese: シンコペーション
syncopated in Norwegian: Synkope
syncopated in Polish: Synkopa (muzyka)
syncopated in Portuguese: Síncope (música)
syncopated in Russian: Синкопа (музыка)
syncopated in Finnish: Synkooppi
syncopated in Swedish: Synkop
syncopated in Ukrainian: Синкопа
syncopated in Contenese: 切分音
syncopated in Chinese: 切分音
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1