Syncopation is a disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of rhythm. It’s the placement of rhythmic stresses or accents where they wouldn’t normally occur.
Even if you don’t know it, some easy guitar songs that can be learned in guitar lessons for beginners may have a syncopated beat, but learning about syncopation comes later in your guitar education. Music is divided into beats, and beats are grouped together in measures based on patterns of strong beats and weak beats. These patterns make up what is called the meter of a piece of music, known as “metrical patterns.” In the usual metrical patterns, or the regular flow of rhythm, the first beat of a measure, the downbeat, is the strongest beat, where the most rhythmic emphasis is put.
Syncopation shifts this emphasis, or, it places the accent on the wrong syllable. A syncopated rhythm is one that places stress on a weak beat, or that creates a strong impulse on a subdivision of a beat, an in-between beat. Weak beats and in-between beats are also known syncopated rhythms.
Syncopation is a general term, there is an unlimited number or variety of possible syncopated rhythms, nor are there limits to the ways they may be used. A syncopated rhythm may occur just once in a piece or passage, or various syncopations may recur, regularly or irregularly, or syncopations may form repetitive patterns, with extended successions of heavily stressed offbeats.
Syncopation is one of the most powerful and versatile tools that composers and artists can employ to create rhythmic interest and variety. Although some guitar players have certainly been more rhythmical and inventive than others, syncopation has been an important element of musical composition for centuries. From the masters such as Bach to Mozart to Beethoven to Hendrix to johnny Winter to Lennon and McCartney, there is no such thing as a good composer who has not made extensive use of syncopation.
Some musical styles have built their character around syncopation. Syncopation is such an integral element of jazz and ragtime, for example, that for those styles the regular flow of rhythm is in fact a syncopated flow. “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing,” goes the Duke Ellington song, and it’s syncopation that provides the swing.
Syncopation is taught in the intermediate to advanced levels of guitar playing. Bass guitar players use syncopated beats also to help the drummer out, creating rhythms that are unique and compelling. If you listen Jimi Hendrix’s new album, he lays down some really cool and new syncopated beats to some of his old songs, changing them up just when we thought we had Jimi down pat, yeah, right!. Enjoy. GuitarPlayersCenter.com