Off-the-beat (Syncopated) Rhythms | Hub Guitar

Off-the-beat (Syncopated) Rhythms

What is Syncopation?

A group of four quarter notes would normally be counted as “1, 2, 3, 4”.

A syncopated rhythm is one that emphasizes the parts of the rhythm that fall in-between the beats.

A group of eight eighth notes would be counted as “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and”.

In these examples, the count “1, 2, 3, 4” would refer to the same notes in both examples. But the second example has an additional note in between each of those. This additional note is called the upbeat, with the primary four being called the down beat. Whenever any music emphasizes the upbeat, it can be called syncopated.

Let’s look at (and play) a few more rhythms, some syncopated and some not.

It helps to be able to read these rhythms. To do that, you can start by slowing tapping the primary four, and saying out loud the names of the beats. If that is difficult, you can say the names of all possible beats (“1+2+3+4+”) but try to whisper the names if the beats that are not played, and speak louder the names of the beats that show on the page.

Syncopation Exercise

Patterns 1: Warmup

Play straight quarter notes and then straight eighth notes. Repeat each pattern until it feels comfortable.

some syncopated rhythms.

Patterns 2: Upbeat

The first pattern is all upbeats. The second pattern is a downbeat pattern with an upbeat at the end. Repeat each pattern.

some syncopated rhythms.

Patterns 3: Somewhat syncopated

These patterns have modest syncopation.

some syncopated rhythms.

Patterns 4: Barely syncopated

These patterns aren’t really syncopated. Warm up your reading more with these patterns, and continue to the next ones.

some syncopated rhythms. some syncopated rhythms.

Patterns 5: Highly syncopated

These patterns are very syncopated, with most attackA term describing the point in time when a note first begins. This is the moment the piano key is pushed or the guitar string is plucked.s occuring on the up beat.

some syncopated rhythms.

More Exercises

The examples above are intended to be practiced separately, several times in a row. The audio examples below demonstrate the sound of each pattern in sequential order.

  1. Pick any chord, such as A major, and strum the chord using these rhythms.
  2. Try playing the A major scale with these rhythms.
As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

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