Learn about Rhythm
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Meter is determined by the regular patterns of strong and weak beats in music. Those repeating patterns establish a feeling of rhythmic stability. Syncopated rhythms interrupt that stability by creating surprise and tension. In Lesson 3 we learned that syncopation occurs in a rhythm that emphasizes the weak beats in a measure. Syncopation also can be created by emphasizing unexpected subdivisions of the beat.
Syncopated notes are often accompanied by an accent, which indicates that you should emphasize that note. Usually, that emphasis is created by playing the note slightly louder than the other notes around it.
The patterns in The Fundamentals of Rhythm book do not include accents, but you can always write the accents in the music yourself and create rhythmic emphasis in unexpected places.
A basic syncopation is created by playing eighth notes on the second half of the beat followed by rests on the beat. A simple example of this rhythm is shown below.
This type of syncopation also occurs when rests on the beat are followed by eighth notes on the second half of each beat. It is very helpful to repeat these patterns many times with a metronome at different tempos. Practicing the following examples will help you feel the rhythm of syncopated subdivisions.
Another very common syncopated pattern includes eighth notes that are tied over the beat.
Since two eighth notes tied together are equal to a quarter note, this rhythm is more commonly written as an eighth followed by a quarter note that begins on the second half of the beat, followed by another eighth, as shown below.
In Lesson 5 we learned about dotted quarter notes, which are usually followed by eighth notes. If the order of those two notes is reversed, the result is a syncopated rhythm. The dotted quarter begins on the second half of the beat, creating an emphasis on the subdivision.
Similar to the rhythm shown above, two consecutive dotted quarter notes create a syncopation, too. This is one of RhythmBot’s favorite patterns.
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Syncopated rhythms can also be created by tying eighth notes together with longer notes. Examples include syncopated rhythms that tied over the measure line.
Syncopated rhythms are very common in jazz, Latin music, and popular music. You may recognize some of these patterns. Chances are good that you have heard many of them.
Counting the beats and the subdivisions of the beat is particularly important with these syncopated rhythms. It is essential that we count strongly to feel the beats, since the rhythm emphasizes the second halves of the beats.
Practice these patterns both with a metronome that subdivides the beat as well as a metronome that only clicks on the beat.
Learn how to play sixteenth notes in Lesson 8.
Write your own rhythms and music compositions! Get free blank staff paper at www.music-paper.com.
Get the Book
Fundamentals of Rhythm book
If you would like all of this information in book format so that you can put it on your music stand and practice it wherever you go, get The Fundamentals of Rhythm, by Kyle Coughlin. The book includes all of the lesson information and practice exercises found on the website.
Use MetronomeBot for a fun online metronome!
The online metronome that counts the beat, subdivides, and offers encouraging practice tips.
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