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Lesson 7: Subdivided Syncopations

Practice PatternsLesson 7 Practice Patterns


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 accent symbol in music

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.



Subdivided Syncopations

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.

Syncopated rhythm with eighth notes followed by rests


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.

Syncopated eighth notes in 2/4 time

Syncopated eighth notes in 3/4 time

Syncopated eighth notes in 4/4 time

Another very common syncopated pattern includes eighth notes that are tied over the beat.

Syncopated rhythm with two eighth notes 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.

Syncopated rhythm with a quarter note on the second half of the beat



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.

Syncopated rhythm with an eighth note followed by a dotted quarter note


Similar to the rhythm shown above, two consecutive dotted quarter notes create a syncopation, too. This is one of RhythmBot’s favorite patterns.

Syncopated rhythm using dotted quarter notes - - - - or - - - -Syncopation formed by two consecutive dotted quarter notes


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 with eighth notes and ties over the measure lines

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.

Practice SuggestionsLesson 7 Practice Suggestions

Practice PatternsLesson 7 Practice Patterns


Syncopated subdivision practice patterns

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

The Fundamentals of Rhythm, book by Kyle Coughlin

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!

MetronomeBot, the talking online metronome

The online metronome that counts the beat, subdivides, and offers encouraging practice tips.

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