For the reference, I'm just started learning music theory for less than half a year and just barely touched on the syncopation topic. It seems that syncopation is not easy for me to identify at all.

I assume that on a normal 4/4 pop song, if the synth is played in between the beats then it's syncopated. But in practice, for example: The chorus on " Closer" by Chainsmokers

(which I've been informed to be a syncopated section) my mind can't quite pay attention to both the synth and beat counting at the same time.

Another case: Intro section of "Need You Now" by Hot Chip (synths appear at 0:29)

I feel that the synth is placed "weirdly" and could be syncopated but I'm really not sure.

Is there any effective and easier way to identify this?

  • my mind can't quite pay attention to both the synth and beat counting at the same time try tapping your foot on the beat, you shouldn't have to think too much about this. You can then cross-reference the synth and your feet - if it's with your foot it's on the beat, etc.. This has helped me out more than I'd like to admit!
    – Luke
    Feb 21, 2018 at 10:28
  • Possible duplicate of Piano and Theory Terms- Syncopation?
    – Vector
    Feb 21, 2018 at 18:28

2 Answers 2


First - don't worry about it. Syncopation is a constant feature of popular (and other) music. You'd almost be surprised if everyone DID follow a plain 'four on the floor' rhythm! What's so important about labelling a rhythm 'syncopated' or not?

But if you want to, tap your foot to the music. Where a prominent rhythm in the music aligns with your foot taps, it's not syncopated. Where it doesn't, it is.

  • And the reason it's so popular is because a very useful expression tool. It's very important part of a lot of music. Give a listen to "Tequila" by the Champs or "Take Five" by Dave Brubeck. It's rhythm on top of rhythm. Feb 22, 2018 at 3:22
  • 'Take Five' is interesting. The accompaniment rhythm is slightly syncopated, but in a very regular pattern. The melody isn't syncopated at all until the middle 8. It's like being in 5/4 is sufficient rhythmic novelty - let it sink in for a bit before 'working against it'.
    – Laurence
    Feb 22, 2018 at 13:28

For me, your two songs don't seem that great as examples of syncopation. The first one was a bit syncopated in the background chords of the chorus but there must be lots of better examples than that. I am from a classical background. I suggest you listen to the opening of Mozart's Symphony no. 25. You will be able to recognize and feel the syncopation in the violins.

  • If you can feel the basic 4 beats in the bar, you can then feel the 'off beats' against the basic beats.
    – Jomiddnz
    Feb 21, 2018 at 6:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.