I'm trying to chart out a song, just so I have a chord chart to use for comping. It's in 4/4, and most chord changes happen on the strong beats (1 and 3), but there's a couple of places where beat 3 is anticipated (by an 8th note). For reference, the song is "Sultans of Swing" by Dire Straights.

Is there any sort of convention used to notate, in this example, that the Bb in measure 16 should be anticipated, rather than played right on beat 3?


  • @ToddWilcox, it's a term I've been taught that means one plays the chord a little bit early, so rather on, in this example, Bb being played on beat 3, it's played on the "and" of 2. Here's a definition I found - musicarrangerspage.com/1493/how-to-use-anticipation-in-music I've also seen it defined as "Also known as 'pushes' or 'kicks'. Generally an anticipations occurs when a musical event is placed immediately before a downbeat, and then is sustained or is followed by a rest on that downbeat". (The Pop Piano Book by Mark Harrison, p. 475. ISBN 0-7935-9878-8). Dec 5, 2015 at 16:11
  • It's quite unusual for a pushed chord to be played 'right on beat 3'. The more common is on beat 4, or the 'and' after beat 4, so a quaver before the next bar starts, which is where most of the pushes in this song appear. It's got to be written in 4/4 otherwise there wouldn't be a beat 3. Maybe that's where the mix up is?
    – Tim
    Dec 5, 2015 at 16:56
  • @Tim, apologies, perhaps I wasn't clear. I don't mean the pushed chord happens right on beat 3, I mean the pushed (anticipated) chord happens on the "and" of 2. And yes, it is a 4/4 time signature. If it helps, here's the song, and that anticipated Bb in measure 16 above happens at around 0:39 - youtube.com/watch?v=xo-J1wf2KHc Dec 5, 2015 at 17:06
  • If a bar is all on, say, Bb, then how can there be a pushed chord on beat 3 (or just before it)? Are you talking about the new chord being pushed, or a syncopation in rhythm in the middle of the bar?
    – Tim
    Dec 5, 2015 at 17:36
  • @MikeHildner The convention for showing rhythm with chords is to write "slash" notehead style. Half-notes / Whole-notes turn into boxes, quarter and smaller turn into slashes. Dots and stems are notated the same. You see this is jazz, rock, and pop charts very commonly. So, to simply show the "anticipation", merely write out the rhythm of the chord change and put the appropriate chord symbol above the rhythm. Dec 5, 2015 at 17:38

2 Answers 2


(I don't have enough reputation points yet to comment, so I'll make this an answer instead. Will convert to comments on other answers later, or to edits on other answers, once I have enough cred to ask those answers' authors whether they welcome the edit.)

I don't see any convention specified in either the "Concise Dictionary of Music" (Wm Collins Sons) or the "Essential Dictionary of Music Notation" (Alfred). Seems like you're on your own to come up with an approach that works best for you. As pointed out in the answer from @Tim, if you're already using staves, then why not jot out just those notes that are pushed, tying them to the downbeat chords to which they push?

Or if you want to go with chord notation, maybe just use that same "Ant." abbreviation that you saw in the examples given at http://www.musicarrangerspage.com/1493/how-to-use-anticipation-in-music/, not as markings on written-out notes in the staff as they do there, but as stand-alone markings prior to the anticipated chord, e.g.

Bb     Bb     Dmi     ant. Bb


Since you're using a stave (don't know why), you can write in the last quaver of the bar previous to the chord to be pushed, with a tie mark across the barline. Write the actual chord over that quaver, thus before the bar. Shortly after that part, there's a syncopated Bb to C part, which really needs writing out in dots, as that rhythm pattern is crucial to the piece. Use notes as suggested by jjmusicnotes to show exactly how it's played. It's the only way.

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