Ragtime is the music most commonly thought of when you talk about syncopation. Another way to put it is “ragged rhythm”. I am finding that pop music is filled with syncopation quite a bit also. An oldie song “The Best Is Yet To Come” by Mr. Coleman has many syncopated beats and you can feel the syncopation, especially if you know the song just by saying the words, Out of the tree of life, I just picked me a plum.
There seems to be two problems musicians face when confronted with this kind of syncopated pattern. The first is how to read the rhythm patterns correctly. Perhaps you can use this tip to help you if you find playing syncopated notes is somewhat challenging. First you need to change each of the oddly placed quarter notes to two eighth notes and then turn them into tied notes. Now you can count the rhythm.
So before we had eighth note, quarter note, eighth note, quarter note, eighth note, tied eighth note in one measure. Now we can count easily, 1 &, 2 &, 3, 4 & because we have three sets of eighth notes and one quarter note. The second problem is in playing the melody with a real rhythmic feel. To make this happen, place accents on the notes that occur on the normally weak beats. Any music dictionary will tell you to shift the accent of a note or chord to a weak beat or the weak part of a beat.
Back to our original song, the accent would would look like this:
Out of the tree of life, I just picked me a plum. Anticipating and feeling the beat are common words applied to Cuban music. These irregular patterns are so very necessary to play in your piano practice no matter what genre of playing. So, spice up your playing with more syncopation!