Syncopation Basics - A Sixteenth Note Example

Tempo refers to the speed a piece of music is played at, learn more in this free lesson.

In this lesson we will take the rhythmic idea given in the Previous Syncopation Lesson and apply it to a bar of 16th notes. Remember that syncopation is the idea of playing rhythms in groupings you wouldn't normally expect in the given time signatures. So playing a rhythm based on goups of threes in the time signature of 4/4 would be syncopated. As in the previous lesson, it isn't important that you play the given examples. You are aiming to gain an understanding of syncopation and how it can be used. Written below is the rhythm using altered beaming to show the syncopation.

A syncopated rhythm

Then I have wrote it again using accents and standard beaming.

A syncopated rhythm

Practical Applications

Listed below are various groove and fill patterns using syncopation. The concepts used are similar to those used in the previous lessons.

Example 1

Here the rhythm has been turned into a groove where the first of each group is played on the snare or a tom followed by kicks.

A syncopated groove

Example 2

This is example 1 reversed.

A syncopated groove

Example 3

This is example 1 but played with crashes on the first of each group.

A syncopated groove

Example 4

This is example 2 but played with crashes.

A syncopated groove

Example 5

Here we have a fill that follows the syncopated rhythm and has a flam played around various parts of the kit on the first of each group followed by kicks.

A syncopated groove

Example 6

This is example 5 reversed playing both hands together rather than flams.

A syncopated groove

Example 7

This is a simple roll around the kit following the original grouping. When using 16th notes for these kind of patterns it can sometimes be better to use a standard triplet style sticking to allow the part to flow. That would give this fill a sticking of 'R L L R L L R L'.

A syncopated groove

TASK

  1. Attempt to play the exmaples above.
  2. Create your own variations on these patterns. Write as many down as possible.
  3. Create your own fill based on the original syncopated pattern.

To further demonstrate how syncopation can be applied in a practical context I have given a short piece below. See if you can spot which parts are syncopated and which aren't.

A syncopated rhythm