I’m new to music theory so some of my descriptions might not be completely technical, but I’ll try to be as clear as possible

I’ve noticed that most songs put emphasis on the 1,2,3, and 4 beats and group eighth notes into 4 groups of 2. (Or 2 groups of 4). But I’ve listened to some songs that seem to instead emphasize the 1, offbeat of 2, and 4 beats, putting eighth notes in 2 groups of 3 followed by 1 group of 2. (See image for more clarity on what I mean)enter image description here This almost makes the music seem like it is so “excited” to get to the next bar that it doesn’t have time to put another eighth note in the group of two.

I was wondering if there is a term for this. I know you could call it syncopation, but to my knowledge syncopation is a very broad term that means any emphasis on the off beats, I’m wondering if there is a term specifically for this 3-3-2 pattern.

Thanks in advance!

2 Answers 2


Yes, this is very common in popular music with a Latin influence. It's like the first half of the 'clave' rhythm that underlies much of this genre.

enter image description here

  • I could never make a clave sound for one-and-a-half beats! Wonder what the longest written clave note is.Why is Afro Rumba highlighted - Bossa is a better fit.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 16:37
  • Yeah. Ignore the highlight.
    – Laurence
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 18:45

the 3-3-2 pattern is called a tresillo. It's a very popular rhythm in Latin influenced music (as the first answer states) and can be found in pop music like Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You."

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