© 2023 South Carolina Public Radio
Radio Website Header-Waves 6 3.0.jpg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Syncopation 1

There’s an old joke about the husband who’s been out late drinking, and when his wife asks him where he’s been, he latches onto a word he saw on the cover of a book in the window of a music store, and he says that unfortunately he had come down with a case of… syncopation. 

His wife is suspicious, and after consulting the dictionary, she says, “Hmph. Just as I thought. Syncopation: an irregular staggering from bar to bar.” Well, it turns out her dictionary wasn’t far off, although a more sober definition might be that syncopation is a disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of rhythm. It’s the placement of rhythmic stresses or accents where they wouldn’t normally occur. In traditional Western music the first beat of a bar, the downbeat, is the strongest, but syncopation shifts the emphasis to weaker beats, or to subdivisions of beats—to in-between beats. But more on syncopation tomorrow.

A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

Stay Connected
Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.