I would like to know what to call the rhythmic style of the pattern below. (The notation is my own, so it may not be exactly the way it should be written.)

example of march-like right hand rhythm with opposing left hand rhythm

It has a Latin feel to it, but is also very reminiscent of the first bar of Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G Minor (Op. 23 No. 5), whose notation uses half the note lengths (eighths instead of quarters etc.).

What I'm interested here is not some kind of analysis, but a label that could be used for this rhythm. like e.g. "Calypso".

  • Well, the right hand, with staccato offbeats and the pair of eighth notes, seems very idiomatic of reggae to me. Delay the second eighth note slightly (in reggae’s version of “swung eighths”), add reverb, and there you go. Sep 26, 2021 at 12:47
  • Nah, for reggae, the bass goes too consistently on the strong beats, and ♩=200 is way too fast. This rhythm could well accompany a relatively slow polka (though that would rather be notated in 2/4 with ♩=100), but it's too generic to nail it down to that. It would depend on the melody and playing-feel. Sep 26, 2021 at 19:36
  • @leftaroundabout If I wrote it like Rachmaninoff, those two bars would become one, and we'd have ♩=100. (No difference to the ears, of course.) Would that make it qualify as reggae? (It does not affect the question of "bass on strong beats", though) Sep 26, 2021 at 23:26
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    Agreed, vote to reopen, although I suspect the answer is "no, there's no particular term for it." I don't know that for sure. The main feature here is what I've heard referred to in Old-Time circles as "boom-chick"—bass on strong beats, treble on weak, which forms the backbone of so many idioms like polka. I wonder, if the question were broadened to "is there a word for that kind of metric distribution of treble and bass," whether that could be easier than pinning it to a genre. Sep 27, 2021 at 17:51

1 Answer 1


"Reggae" was suggested in comments. I think that would be the reggae "skank" rhythm of staccato, repeated eighth notes, or staccato quarter notes on beats 2 and 4. But, reggae isn't just a rhythm pattern. Harmonically this example is nothing like reggae.

I think this pattern could be found in too many contexts to give it a clear label. You might need some more music to label it. Debussy's Golliwog's Cakewalk has a similar rhythm in the vamp right after the opening flourish, I think it's mm. 8 & 9, but it's notated in 2/4. It's probably too slow to call it a foxtrot, but it's a rhythm that could work as foxtrot accompaniment. It could be a march, just rebar it for 2/4 if you expect a march to be only in 2/4.

Harmonically it sounds modern, maybe like Stravinsky or the Weill's Three Penny Opera.

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