Is there a name for the following chord change rhythm? I was trying to see if I could make an acoustic-strummed version of "King of Wishful Thinking" sound good, and I couldn't help but strum the chords like this:

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1
Am          F                   G           C                   Am
    I don't need            to  fall at yer feet

And then again on the chorus

         1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1
         C           F                   G           Am                  C
I'll get o   -   ver you,            I   know    I   will,      I'll pre-tend

I think I'm realizing I'm fallen into this chord change pattern on many other songs, where every other chord change (or perhaps more sporadically) comes "early", on the four-beat, not the one-beat. So is there a term for this or variations on it? Is there any theory around it?

Or am I just forcing the chord change too early just to coincide with the strong vocal and I need to learn a little restraint?


4 Answers 4


It's called an anticipation, and isn't specific to coming in on the four. An anticipation refers to any note (or chord) that arrives rhythmically before it would otherwise be expected.

Rhythmic anticipation is most appropriate when trying to give the music a driving feel, or a feel or forward momentum. In Vince Guaraldi's "Linus and Lucy", the bass part consistently anticipates beat 1, which gives the music its push. In the except below, the bass anticipates the chord change (0:10 – 0:20).

  • Great, thanks. Is there any theory or even just wisdom as to when anticipation is appropriate or inappropriate? Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 2:20
  • @PatrickSzalapski Not really, but I've tried to update the post with something toward that end.
    – Aaron
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 2:37
  • Could you use this to describe the rhythm in Soundgarden's The Day I Tried To Live, and particularly the its 7/4 + 4/4 + 4/4 pattern? That is, could you analyze the 7/4 as essentially making the 1-beat of the next bar anticipate itself?
    – yshavit
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 19:52
  • 1
    @yshavit 7/4 can make it sound like the next measure arrives "too early", and it's a reasonable interpretation. I don't hear it that way in this particular song, because the pattern is so regular; the emphases come in the "expected" places. It's definitely open to debate, though.
    – Aaron
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 19:56
  • 1
    @yshavit Most likely it would be said to "have the effect of an anticipation", but would not itself be labeled as one.
    – Aaron
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 21:12

Anticipation. Syncopated chord rhythm. 'Pushing' the chord changes.


Always called them 'pushed chords'. But more often not played as you portray, instead not playing the 1st strum on the next beat one. Which holds over from the upstrum on the & of 4 from the previous bar. Written out, it would show as the final quaver tied to the next quaver, over the barline.

The Beatles were very fond of playing rhythms in this way. I guess the proper term would be syncopation.


The music theorist David Temperley, in his book The Cognition of Basic Musical Structures, introduced what he called the syncopation shift rule. In short, this rule shows that syncopations in popular music can be conceptually shifted forward (i.e., later) in time (at varying hierarchical levels) to illustrate that they ultimately stem from more "normative," non-syncopated backgrounds where musical accents align with metrical accents. (When considering this phenomenon from the standpoint of the composer, one of course shifts these syncopations backwards in time.)

His book is one in a longer line of publications creating something of a Chomskyan grammar for music, the most important of which is typically agreed to be Lerdahl and Jackendoff's A Generative Theory of Tonal Music. As such, these syncopation shifts help show how the deeper musical structures follow standardized preference and well-formedness rules.

Along with this concept is what he calls the deep representation ordering rule, in which events must still occur in the same order once one applies the syncopation shift rule.

I like this term a bit better than "anticipation" since the latter is so tightly connected to the concept of non-chord tones, which is a rather different topic than what is mentioned here.

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