Monday, June 15, 2009


"Syncopation" (12" square)
Show piece #7 is now complete. This one is titled Syncopation, which refers to a measured unit of musical time. Playing flute six years in school introduced me to the mechanics of musical timing but I'm not a musical expert so I decided to dig up an online explanation. Here are the highlights and if you want a deeper understanding, visit this website.

A syncopation or syncopated rhythm is any rhythm that puts an emphasis on a beat, or a subdivision of a beat, that is not usually emphasized. One of the most obvious features of Western music, to be heard in most everything from Bach to blues, is a strong, steady beat that can easily be grouped evenly into measures. (In other words, each measure has the same number of beats, and you can hear the measures in the music because the first beat of the measure is the strongest.) This makes it easy for you to dance or clap your hands to the music. But music that follows the same rhythmic pattern all the time can get pretty boring. Syncopation is one way to liven things up. The music can suddenly emphasize the weaker beats of the measure, or it can even emphasize notes that are not on the beat at all.

Syncopations can happen anywhere: in the melody, the bass line, the rhythm section, the chordal accompaniment. Any spot in the rhythm that is normally weak (a weak beat, an upbeat, a sixteenth of a beat, a part of a triplet) can be given emphasis by a syncopation. It can suddenly be made important by a long or high note in the melody, a change in direction of the melody, a chord change, or a written accent. Depending on the tempo of the music and the type of syncopation, a syncopated rhythm can make the music sound jaunty, jazzy, unsteady, surprising, uncertain, exciting, or just more interesting.
Other musical traditions tend to be more rhythmically complex than Western music, and much of the syncopation in modern American music is due to the influence of Non-Western traditions, particularly the African roots of the African-American tradition. Syncopation is such an important aspect of much American music, in fact, that the type of syncopation used in a piece is one of the most important clues to the style and genre of the music. Ragtime, for example, would hardly be ragtime without the jaunty syncopations in the melody set against the steady unsyncopated bass. The "swing" rhythm in big-band jazz and the "back-beat" of many types of rock are also specific types of syncopation. If you want practice hearing syncopations, listen to some ragtime or jazz. Tap your foot to find the beat, and then notice how often important musical "events" are happening "in between" your foot-taps.


  1. W.O.W!! I really like that you post your photos in the full format and let blogspot shrink them for the post - because - I clicked on the photo to see the detail and it is awesome!!

    I wish you ALL the BEST of Luck and Happiness for your upcoming SHOW!!!

  2. Thanks Marguerita. I too enjoy my photos in macro view. I don't get to see the details this closely even when I am working on my pieces!

    Deb, Kathy and I are scurrying to complete our work and prepare for the show in two weeks. We expect a fantastic turnout and look forward to relaxing in July.