In most modern music in 4/4 beats 2 and 4 are where the snare hits are and are usually referred to as the backbeat. Normally in 4/4 the 2 and 4 beat would not be accented, but the snare hits do just that. Where did this idea originate and why is it so important to accent 2 and 4?

  • 1
    Wiki has some info on backbeat but another related term is for example, four on the floor which is also another working musician lingo. They mostly come from musician-to-musician slang.
    – user1306
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 16:47
  • poss. duplication of 'Why is the backbeat called the rockbeat'.(Oct.'13)
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 18:43
  • 1
    To quote Chuck Berry, the importance of the back beat to rock and roll music is that you can't lose it. :)
    – BobRodes
    Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 5:49

2 Answers 2


Where did this idea originate? West Africa, then transplanted to the New World. It is a defining characteristic of African-American music, and all the styles of music that grew out of and were influenced by African-American music. It then spread to the rest of the world via the 20th-century music of the USA, Cuba, Brazil, Jamaica, and other nations with African descendants in the population who influenced the musical culture.

  • What I heard explained was the term became more widespread as the jazz age transitioned into rock and roll. Drummers went from the swing style "ding-ding-a-ding" (on the cymbal) to "Boom [sha] Wack Boom [sha] Wack" (bass drum with hi-hat then snare) pattern we're familiar with today.
    – Duston
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 14:00
  • It might be oversimplification. Accenting weak parts of the bar can be found in traditional Irish music e.g. reels, and in turns Irish music influenced many other styles. Is it African or African-American music influence? On the other hand I would also think that African music influence is much broader than just accenting 2 and 4... Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 19:26

Several places I've seen suggest that the "backbeat (accenting beats 2 and 4) originated in the strumming patterns in early country music (then called "hillbilly" to market to "Whites" as opposed to "race" which was marketed to "Blacks" in the 1920s.) Of course, any dance-like 4-beat music has a bit of a metric accent on beats 1 and 3, and syncopation has been around for centuries.

There was (and still is) a lot of cross-influences between genres of music. (Genres are often just marketing.)

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