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2

Musical Elements

V.

Rhythm

VI.

Form

III. Syncopation

jazz images 1

Jim Hall

jazz images 2

Clark Terry

jazz images 3

Eldridge & Stewart

jazz images 4

Horace Silver

jazz images 5

Jimmy Heath


A. Basic Definition of Syncopation

   

Jazz musicians like to emphasize the notes that they play on the “upbeats;” that is, if you’re tapping your foot along with the beat of the music, jazz musicians tend to emphasize the notes that occur when your foot is in the air. This is syncopation: accenting upbeats. 


B. A Simple Example of Syncopation

   

Try tapping your foot to a steady beat and say: 

      

1.

“oom” every time your foot hits the floor and “pah” every time your foot is in the air (oom-pah oom-pah oom-pah oom-pah...) 

      

2.

now, keeping your foot tapping steady, just say the “pahs” when your foot is in the air ( pah -pah -pah -pah...) -- this is syncopation 


C. Syncopation is Natural for the Jazz Musician

   

Syncopation might seem tricky at first, but to the jazz musician it’s as natural as a speaker raising his/her voice to make a point. 


D. No Syncopation = Boring

   

Without syncopation (all accents on the downbeats), jazz would be boring and, well, wouldn’t be jazz. 


E. When to Syncopate

   

Jazz musicians don’t syncopate ALL the time (if they did it would be monotonous). Instead, jazz music involves both syncopated and non-syncopated notes -- just which ones to syncopate is up to the player and, once they get good enough, they do this intuitively (that is, without having to think about it; just like fluctuating your voice when talking so you don’t talk in a monotone). 

the thelonious monk institute of jazz
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