Pop music, and especially house, seems to be enamored of this beat on top of the "4 on the floor" and the closest I can get to a description of it is "tropical" which is unsatisfactory. I'm looking for a more technical description of this rhythm.

Cheap Thrills (Sia) the electronic marimba? throughout the song (starts at 0:23) -

Where Have You Been (Rihanna), synth at 2:17 -

Shape of You (Ed Sheeran), electronic marimba throughout the song -

The best I can do is say that the subdivision of two beats is 3+3+2 sixteenth notes, but does this very common subdivision have a better name?

Or for the visually inclined, over four beats the asterisks represent accented sixteenth notes:

* . . * . . * . * . . * . . * .

1 Answer 1


This is actually called the tresillo.

There's a lot to check out in that link, from explanations of its origin to its use in various genres. But basically, the tresillo approximates a triplet without actually being a triplet. It's also an instance of a "maximally even" rhythm, which means that, given a particular level of subdivision, the three articulations are as symmetrically spread apart from each other as possible ("maximally even") without actually being completely even.

Edit: Though not a duplicate, be sure to also check out What is this beat and why is it so popular

  • 1
    That does seem to be it, but there's a surprising (to me) lack of reference to its widespread modern usage in popular music on the wikipedia page. Apr 11, 2017 at 18:35

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