What Does Syncopation Mean?

Written by martha adams
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Syncopation means an unexpected change in an established rhythm or beat. It comes from the Greek word meaning "to cut short."

In Music

William House, Editor of "Reverse Spins," in his article "Why 'Good Vibrations' May be Bad," explains: "The Waltz has three beats with the natural emphasis on the first: ONE, two, three; ONE, two, three. Change that emphasis to the last weak beat and you get: da, da, DUMB; da, da, DUMB. That's a syncopated rock beat." To hear this, listen to the rock group Queen's "We Will Rock You." Another good example is Leroy Anderson's "The Syncopated Clock."

In Dance

On the website Love Music Love Dance, Philip Seyer says, "A dancer can syncopate by suddenly doing an unexpected touch step or a kick step on a strong beat where one would normally expected a weight change."

In Words

Words can be syncopated by leaving out letters or syllables in the middle. The British do this when they shorten Worcestershire sauce to "Wooster sauce." A yachtsman does it when he talks about a "stuns'l" (studdingsail).

In Medicine

Syncope, the root word of syncopation, is a brief loss of consciousness and weakness, followed by recovery. In other words, an interruption of your normal brain activity and muscle tone---you black out, fall down, wake up and can't remember how it happened.

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