For example, a riff/pattern that's three beats long played over 4/4 so that a different part of the phrase is emphasized on each repetition.

This happens briefly in The Killers "Somebody told me", with the phrase "bring it back down" in the prechorus, where the first time "bring" falls on beat 2 but the second time it falls on 1.

I seem to remember there being a specific name for this, but I can't find it anywhere. Anyone know?

  • I usually hear these phrases referred to as hemiolas, although I don't think that's the correct usage of the term.
    – Peter
    Mar 18 '19 at 21:11
  • Polyrhythm perhaps? Mar 18 '19 at 21:19
  • @Peter does hemiola refer to a 3:2 relationship specifically? Maybe we're looking for a more general term that refers to a similar concept but for any X:Y relationship...
    – topo morto
    Mar 18 '19 at 22:13
  • 1
    It's the hemi- component that makes it specific to x+x/2:x, so we could generalize it with a new term "n-ola". :) Or, perhaps they could be described with more words, like rational polyrhythm. Mar 19 '19 at 23:03
  • 1
    look what you made me do
    – Some_Guy
    May 1 '19 at 14:57

This is an example of beat displacement. If it occurs repeatedly, it is a form of cross-rhythm (or cross-beat).


The usual term (from European Medieval and some Indian music) is "isorhythm."

  • 4
    An isorhythm is a repeated rhythm, but it doesn't have the connotation of going across the bar line, so it doesn't fully answer the OPs question.
    – Peter
    Mar 18 '19 at 22:10

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