Syncopation in 6/8

Posted on May 30, 2024

Here’s something you could call a “Syncopation Spoof.”

One of my bands has several songs in 12/8, all from 60–71 BPM, and I’ve been trying to spice up my 12/8 vocabulary. I’ve been exploring Ted Reed’s Syncopation for more and more extrapolations, and I think I’ve found a way to use the book in 12/8.

Obviously, the book is entirely in 4/4 (or cut time more specifically), but if you read it in 6/4, you’re well on your way to a 12/8 feel. 

Todd Bishop has a couple of articles rewriting famous 4/4 drum passages in other time signatures — here’s one with Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer, transformed into 5/4 by repeating beat 1 as beat 5.

“Syncopation Set 2” repeats each measure four times, so you can just read one and a half measures of each line to get 6 beats:

Which is exactly how I made my own four pages. It’s all based around 8ths and 16ths in 6/8. It’s probably best to start with 6 beat fills and combine lines as you want for 12 beats of fills.  

Again, I’m not sure re–engraving this stuff is totally necessary, but it makes life easier. It’s still not too much trouble — I just enter everything with my keyboard. The majority of the work was done in about 20 minutes.

I have two versions, one with an 8th note kick pattern, and another with no kick, if you find the kick distracting. 

This should at least provide an interesting reading workout. To that end, I am a little unsure about some of my engraving choices. I wonder if I overuse ties; I like using them because they make it very easy to keep track of the beat. In Syncopation, ties are generally only used to stretch note lengths over beats 2 and 3.

As such, I only used ties to stretch over beats 3 and 4.* Some of my rhythms look a bit odd to me, but I wonder if that’s because I generally count 6/8 and 12/8 with an 8th note feel, while most people use a dotted quarter not feel.

Another approach could have been starting each line on beat 2:

If sometime in the future I’m feeling particularly desperate to share anything, I might whip up another four pages using that approach… that being said, because of the cyclical nature of Syncopation, some of the rhythms you’ll make using this second approach already exist in my PDF.

Download PDF.

Download PDF (no kick).

(I should mention that Todd has a book called Syncopation in 3/4 that is worth checking out.)

* As such, some of the patterns are not verbatim from Reed, but I think it’s appropriate, especially since drummers generally don’t worry about exact note lengths. 

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