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Brian Kay


Basic Syncopation Studies

Thirty-nine short, progressive exercises provide an effective tool for teaching the feel and reading of syncopation, both in common and cut time. It is specially usefull for those who may struggle with learning this feel, and could use a "syncopation intensive!"

Suggestions for use:

  • Use them in private lessons, or in groups of any size.
  • Have the students chant the rhythm using a syllable like "Ta" while they mark time physically (foot tapping or hand motions) to verify that they are feeling the upbeats crisply and accurately.
  • Teach the lines marked * by rote until the student(s) feel the rhythm thoroughly. Repeat these lines continuously. When the rhythm is strong, the students should enjoy the group feel and groove of these powerful rhythms. Use the exercises that follow to test how completely the student has internalized the rhythm, and whether they are able to read it independently, and in context with other rhythms.
  • Some students will need much more repetition than others to get the ability to feel a steady offbeat pulse.
  • If needs be, do the cut-time exercises in 4/4 first.

Download the Exercises (Adobe Acrobat Format .pdf)

see also:


Trombone Sheet Music

My Intermediate Methods