Normally music written in 4/4 (common) time places the emphasis on the downbeat, meaning on the beat. Beats one through four are all downbeats when counting in 4/4 time. When a note is emphasized that falls inbetween the downbeats (on the upbeat) it is syncopated. Syncopation is found in every genre of music, and it is the dominant style for many types of music: Ragtime, Latin dance, reggae, and big band swing all use syncopation extensively.
The emphasis on the upbeat notes is often attained using accents, which make individual notes louder than the surrounding notes. The accent symbol > is placed above or below the notehead to indicate which note or notes should be played louder. In syncopated music, you have accents on the upbeat notes rather than the downbeats.
You can also use rests to create the syncopated effect. When you rest on the downbeat, the played notes on the upbeat stand out. Tied notes can have a similar effect. Figure 11-9 demonstrates the famous syncopated Latin clave rhythm with and without accents, then via rests and tied notes. Be sure to listen to the track on the CD.
The piano music of Scott Joplin epitomizes the American ragtime style. Extremely popular in the late 1800s through the early 1900s, ragtime music puts emphasis on the upbeat instead of the downbeat. Be sure to refer to the appendix of this book for listening suggestions of the music of Scott Joplin.
FIGURE 11-9: Syncopation