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Bill Powelson's School of Drums


What is a syncopation?
Webster's dictionary defines the word this way:

'To alter rhythm by accenting a usually unaccented note, or causing
the accent to fall on a rest, or silent beat.'

That is a very broad description, so to keep it simple for our purposes here, just visualize a syncopation (sync) as throwing a snare or bass beat between the steady flow of cymbal notes.

It is easier said than done but you will be doing it before this page is finished. Syncopations may prove a little difficult at first, so just go slow, concentrate, and think about what you are trying to do. Your success with these beat patterns will be directly related to your perseverance and determination. Syncs will put the 'fun' into 'funky' and they are definitely worth the effort. These will become your favorite licks when you finally have them mastered.

What's the secret?

Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat . . . .

We'll begin with the basic rock beat. You should be playing this one pretty well by now.


As you repeat this beat at a very slow tempo, think about adding a quick snare (left hand) immediately after the bass note, just before the second cymbal. Do not strike the cymbal as you hit the snare. The snare note is played between the steady flow of cymbal notes ( see below).

Hearing it will help.

Now try adding a second bass drum as you strike the second cymbal note . . .

Hearing it will help.

VIDEO: Click here to 'Play', see, and hear the above snare syncopation, video.

Now put it with the first FATBACK variation that we learned . . .

It is Fatback with an added snare sync.

VIDEO: Click here to 'Play', see, and hear the above snare syncopation, video.

This is a pretty funky 'Fatback' beat but there is much we can add to it. Try adding still another sync ahead of the first bass. When we write it correctly, this note will show up at the end of the measure. We do it that way just to confuse you. Arrrhhgh! Don't blame me. I didn't invent the system!

I will not write all these possibilities because you are getting the idea aren't you? You may place syncopations between any of the cymbal notes in any beat. This includes bass drum syncopations that are very difficult but extremely funky. These techniques apply to any primary dance beat category as well. Think about that, it should keep you busy for quite some time (like . . . forever.)

We'll get into bass syncopations in a future lesson. They are a whole new ball of wax. Don't rush this stuff! We're looking at a lot of jam time here. It'll take a lot of jamming with music to get really comfortable with all this.

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