Syncopation (sfz) in Beethoven's String Quartet in A major, Op. 18, No. 5, 3rd movement, variation I, bars 7–8. About this sound Play 

In music, syncopation involves a variety of rhythms which are in some way unexpected which make part or all of a tune or piece of music off-beat. More simply, syncopation is a general term for "a disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of rhythm": a "placement of rhythmic stresses or accents where they wouldn't normally occur".[1] The correlation of at least two sets of time intervals.[2] Also known as an "Uneven movement from bar to bar".

Syncopation is used in many musical styles, especially dance music--"All dance music makes use of syncopation and it's often a vital element that helps tie the whole track together".[3] In the form of a back beat, syncopation is used in virtually all contemporary popular music.

Vertical hemiola. About this sound Play 

Syncopation can also occur when a strong harmony is placed on a weak beat, for instance when a 7th-chord is placed on the second beat of 3
bar or a dominant is placed at the fourth beat of a 4
bar. The latter frequently occurs in tonal cadences in 18th and early 19th century music and is the usual conclusion of any section.

A hemiola can also be seen as one straight bar in 3 with one long chord and one short chord and a syncope in the bar thereafter, with one short chord and one long chord. Usually, the last chord in a hemiola is a (bi-)dominant, and as such a strong harmony on a weak beat, hence a syncope.

Types of syncopation

Technically, "syncopation occurs when a temporary displacement of the regular metrical accent occurs, causing the emphasis to shift from a strong accent to a weak accent".[4] "Syncopation is", however, "very simply, a deliberate disruption of the two- or three-beat stress pattern, most often by stressing an off-beat, or a note that is not on the beat".[5]


In the following example, there are two points of syncopation where the third beats are carried over (sustained) from the second beats rather than missed. In the same way, the first beat of the second bar is carried over from the fourth beat of the first bar. About this sound Play 

Two point syncopation.png

Though syncopation may be highly complex, dense or complex looking rhythms often contain no syncopation. The following rhythm, though dense, stresses the regular downbeats, 1 & 4 (in 6
):[5] About this sound Play 

Not syncopation example.png

However, whether it's a placed rest or an accented note, any point in a piece of music that moves your perspective of the downbeat is a point of syncopation because it's shifting where the strong and weak accents are built".[5]

"Even-note" syncopation

For example, in meters with even numbers of beats (2
, 4
, etc.), the stress normally falls on the odd-numbered beats. If the even-numbered beats are stressed instead, the rhythm is syncopated. Accordingly, the former implies duple meter (1212) while the latter implies quadruple meter (1234).

Off-beat syncopation

The stress can shift by less than a whole beat so it falls on an off beat, as in the following example where the stress in the first bar is shifted back by an eighth note (or quaver) About this sound Play :

\relative c' { d8 a'4 c e gis,8 a1 }

Whereas the notes are expected to fall on the beat About this sound Play :

\relative c' { d a' c e gis, a2. }

Playing a note ever so slightly before, or after, a beat is another form of syncopation because this produces an unexpected accent About this sound Play :

\relative c' { \partial 8 d8 a'4 c e gis,8 a(a1) }

It can be helpful to think of a 4
rhythm in eighth notes and count it as "1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and". In general emphasising the "and" would be considered the off-beat.

Anticipated bass

Anticipated bass[6] is a bass tone that comes syncopated shortly before the downbeat, which is used in Son montuno Cuban dance music. Timing can vary, but it usually falls on the 2+ as well as the 4 of the 4
time, thus anticipating the third and first beats. This pattern is commonly known as the Afro-Cuban bass tumbao.

Other Languages
aragonés: Sincope (musica)
azərbaycanca: Sinkopa (musiqi)
беларуская: Сінкопа (музыка)
čeština: Synkopa
eesti: Sünkoop
Esperanto: Sinkopo (muziko)
فارسی: سنکپ
hrvatski: Sinkopa
עברית: סינקופה
lietuvių: Sinkopė
македонски: Синкопа (музика)
Nederlands: Syncope (muziek)
Nedersaksies: Synkoop (muziek)
norsk: Synkope
norsk nynorsk: Synkopering
português: Síncope (música)
română: Sincopă
Simple English: Syncopation
slovenčina: Synkopa (hudba)
српски / srpski: Синкопа (музика)
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Sinkopa (muzika)
suomi: Synkooppi
svenska: Synkop
українська: Синкопа (музика)
粵語: 切分音
中文: 切分音