Different styles of popular music can be characterised by distinctive rhythms.
The features below can be found in jazz and blues styles. Not all features will be found in all pieces.
Swing rhythms occur when straight quavers are relaxed into a more triplet feel:
A very famous example of the use of this rhythm is Glenn Miller’s In the Mood. The swing rhythm is found in many jazz styles, including the boogie woogie.
Syncopation is when the offbeats in a metre - eg beats 2 and 4 in 4/4 time - are given a greater degree of emphasis than the main beats - eg beats 1 and 3 in 4/4 time. Rhythms that fit in between the beats of a bar can be described as syncopated.
In many forms of jazz, syncopated rhythms in the melody and accompaniment create complex rhythms. This is particularly relevant in sections of jazz where musicians explore syncopation through improvisation. New melodies in jazz are often formed as a result of experimentation with syncopated rhythm.
A walking bass is when the bass player plays crotchets and ‘walks’ up and down either the blues scale or arpeggio.
Ska is a type of fast dance music that emerged in the late 1950s. Ska music:
Here is an example of a ska rhythm:
How would you describe syncopation?
Rocksteady is a type of dance music that emerged in the mid-1960s. It is characterised by:
Reggae is a much slower form of music than ska and emerged in the 1960s. It is characterised by: