In music, syncopation (Spanish síncopa, f.) occurs, generally speaking, when there is a disturbance in the regularity of a rhythm.
This can either be a displacement or an interruption in the accents of the rhythm.
Take the following example rhythm:
There are three points of syncopation here:
- In both measures, the third beats are sustained from the second beats.
- The first beat of the second measure is sustained from the fourth beat of the first measure.
These are syncopation points because there is an interruption of the regular rhythm in them.
Take the following non-syncopated melody as the base melody:
Within the first measure, we can displace the accents of the rhythm by an eighth-note like so:
That makes the accents of the rhythm be offbeat. When counting the eighth notes in the first measure, notice that the accents fall on the even-numbered ones, instead of the odd-numbered ones they would fall on if the measure weren’t syncopated.