What is Syncopation?

What is Syncopation?

As a jazz fan, you obviously love listening to the notes flowing out from the bell of a saxophone, but can you actually visualize those notes, on a staff? Are you able to see the music as well as hear it?

Trust us, learning a bit about musical composition won’t ruin the magic of jazz—far from it, it’ll only enhance it. Because when you gain a deeper understanding of all the intricacies, you’ll develop an even stronger appreciation for the enchanting nature of jazz music!

So, in that spirit, we’re continuing our blog series on the basics of musical theory and composition. If you’re curious to learn more, check out our posts about melody, harmony, and polyphony.

Today, we’re going to be learning about syncopation. But first, before we talk about that, let’s quickly run through the concepts of rhythm and beat. As you might already know, every piece of music has an internal natural flow, like a pulse or the ticking of a clock, that repeats until the end. This pulse is called the rhythm, which is organized into beats per measure.

Syncopation is a rhythmic structure that avoids the natural flow, or beats, of a piece. And how does syncopation avoid the beats, you may be wondering. Well, it’s actually quite simple—the notes are displaced so that they don’t fall precisely on the beats of the time signature. Instead, the notes can be played in anticipation—earlier than you’d expect—right before the marked beats, or they can be delayed and played after each beat of the pulse.

Believe it or not, in some melodies, every single note is syncopated—meaning that every note falls before or after the beat! And in jazz, this is a very popular technique. Most jazz musicians prefer to accentuate the upbeats. So, if you’re tapping your foot along to the music, the notes that are played when your foot is in the air are the ones that are emphasized.

Now this all may sound very complicated, but to the jazz musician, it actually comes quite naturally—eventually, master musicians do it intuitively, just like how you fluctuate your voice while speaking.

Syncopating notes gives the musician freedom to express their own interpretations of the beat. And to be honest, if there was no syncopation, jazz simply wouldn’t be jazz—it wouldn’t sound right—because most jazz compositions incorporate a mixture of syncopated and non-syncopated notes.

Many well-known songs from “Hey Diddle Diddle” to “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)” include syncopated notes.

Can you spot any syncopation in this 2022 jazz rendition of “Can’t Buy Me Love” from the WJ3 All-Stars?

“Can’t Buy Me Love” comes from the album My Ship, which is available in our store and on all major music platforms today.

This post was written by Digital Marketing Manager, Jacqueline Knirnschild.

Five Songs for a Road Trip Out West

Five Songs for a Road Trip Out West

I don’t know about you, but I start to feel a bit of ennui during the late part of the summer. Especially when I was a kid, out of school for months, I’d start to feel a bit restless by mid-to-late August. Maybe this is why August is such a popular month for people to take a trip out to the American West?!

The American West is filled with unparalleled natural beauty that is sure to satisfy your craving for the picturesque. The pristine lakes and remarkable mountains of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. The stunning red rock landscapes of Moab, Utah. The hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles of Yellowstone National Park.

And with all the outdoor activities—hiking, kayaking, paddleboarding, just to name a few—the West is definitely the place to go to find some adventure!

Now, the most important question: what music should you listen to on your road trip out to the great American west? Don’t worry, we got you covered with the best tunes to get you in the mood for your vacation!

Marty Robbins – Ballad of the Alamo

This song comes from the epic 1960 historical war film, “The Alamo,” which stars John Wayne as Davy Crockett. Listen to this ballad before you tour the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas and as you’re walking around, you’ll notice that between the setting and the rising of the sun, you can hear a ghostly bugle as the men go marching by . . .

Eddy Arnold – Cattle Call

As you’re driving out west in your car or RV, you’re going to see plenty of open spaces, fields and, of course, cattle! This fun 1934 tune will be sure to put a grin on your face as you admire the cows and oxen. 

Maybe if you’re feeling especially frisky, you can stick your head out the window and say hello to the livestock! Moo! Who knows, maybe you’ll help scare away the howlin’ coyotes!

Sons of the Pioneers – Tumbling Tumbleweeds

First recorded in 1934, this western ballad captured the spirit of the Great Depression. Following the Dust Bowl, the “Dirty Thirties” saw many men wandering around the country looking for work, drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

And did you know that the Sons of the Pioneers, founded in 1933, are actually still around today? Of course, the membership has changed frequently over the years, but they are now one of the longest-surviving country groups in the world!

Harve Presnell – They Call the Wind Maria

This song was written for the 1951 Broadway musical, Paint Your Wagon, which takes place during the California Gold Rush of the mid 19th century. The driving, staccato rhythm of the tune, played on the string instruments, creates a sense of restless, unending motion, as if one is riding a horse or cowboy all day and night long!

Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – Always on My Mind

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erNCR–NNMk

A classic tune performed by everyone from Loretta Lynn to Elvis, and, of course, the figure of outlaw country himself, Willie Nelson, this iconic ballad just had to be included on our list. The strong sense of bittersweet regret is simply timeless.

But have you ever heard a jazzy rendition of the song? Boy are you in for a treat with this new recording that features an impeccable flute solo by Aaron Heick!

“Always on My Mind” comes from our country jazz album, Cryin’ In My Whiskey, which is available on all major music platforms and in our store today.