Syncopation - In Rhythm Chords
Learn what syncopated rhythm is, how you can do it and how to apply it to your rhythm chords.
Now we shall move on to a more complicated rhythm technique, which is known as syncopation, or adding syncopation to the chords.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, syncopation is a way to create unexpected disruptions in the normal flow of the music.
In other words a syncopated rhythm can place a stress or accent on a certain beat or there can be an unexpected rest in time (or silence in the normal flow on notes), that give surprise in the piece.
More simply put, this is a method whereby there is a disturbance in the normal flow of the rhythm or a placement of accents in the rhythm where they would not be expected.
So, we will investigate how we can very simply do this with some chord exercises.
If you examine the example below, we are going to go through the 3 chords that are included in the Key of E Major, being E, A, and B7.
Since all measures share the same rhythm characteristics, let's look at the first measure:
First: notice that this is a typical 4/4 timing, in that there are 4 beats per measure with each 1/4 beat receiving that beat - so (4) quarter notes per measure.
Secondly: Notice that the measure starts out with a quarter note chord, where you use a down stroke of the pick. Give this chord one full beat.
Third: The next chord is an eighth note chord so it receives 1/2 a beat (note that this is also played with a down stroke of the pick because it starts out on the next full beat).
This chord is quickly followed by the next eighth note chord which also receives 1/2 beat and this one is played with an up stroke of the pick. This completes the first two beats.
Next comes the syncopated rhythm: The third beat starts out with silence - no chord is played. Notice that there is a chord on the third beat, but it is tied to the prior chord with a series of arched lines. These are known a "tied" notes.
These tied notes are not played, but are ringing through from the previous chord.
The second half of the 3rd beat starts with an up stroke of the pick and is played on the "and" of the beat.
Finally we round out the measure with 2 more eighth note chords for the "4" and the "and" beats.
Make sure you play this very smoothly and let the syncopated chord ring for its true value (1/2 beat for the chord and 1/2 beat for the tied chord), so a total of 1 beat.
Move through the 3 chords very smoothly without any pause or delay.
Next, to add more interest or color to the passage, let's experiment with adding accents to certain beats.
This is also know as adding stress to the rhythm.
The first accent you can try is on the first beat of each measure. When you play the first chord of each measure, strum it a bit harder than the rest of the chords to make it stand out.
Secondly try adding stress to other beats in each measure, such as the the "and" of beat 2, which is the third chord in each measure.
You can of coarse accent other chords in the measure as well, or vary your accent for different measure.
Experiment a bit and find out what works for you and have some fun with syncopated rhythm!
To learn more about reading chord diagrams and chord techniques, be sure to read our article on Guitar Strumming.