Music Theory Resources

Syncopation occurs when rhythms do not follow the regular pattern of emphasis in a measure. To the ear, it sounds similar to when the natural emphasis of language is not followed (for example, in English we say EM-pha-sis, not em-PHA-sis). Instead of following the expected pattern, sympcopated rhythms emphasize off-beats, the halfway points between two beats. Since eighth notes usually divide the beat in half, it is common for syncopation to occur in rhythms that use eighth notes.