Jeremy Latham


Using Off-Beat Syncopation to Create Trance and House Grooves

Off-beat syncopation is used in a wide variety of musical genres, you will have heard it a lot in house and trance tracks.

By placing notes on the off-beat it creates a distinctive rhythm, this works well when using a 4/4 time signature.

In this example I am using a single triad chord (A minor). It doesn’t take long to make good sounding rhythms, which could form the basis of your track or transitional sections. By using other chords you could easily create melodies, all from using syncopation (or a mixture of syncopated and on-beat notes).

Listen to an example of syncopated chords

Syncopation can also be used on bass lines as well as lead instruments. You’ll probably find that sounds with short sustain work best with also some delay added. In fact, you’ve probably used syncopation in your tracks without realising it.

In the image below I have shown where the bass drum is by deactivating the notes, this makes it easier when moving chords and notes around in the piano roll. Currently, deactivating notes is the only way to mark out where notes are without having them played back. Some other DAWs have ‘ghost notes’ making it possible to see notes on other channels, maybe Ableton Live will get this feature in the future?

Syncopated chords in the Ableton Live piano roll

You may also find these articles helpful

Using call and response notes to make a melody

Scale Midi files to help you play in key

Using ping pong delay to enhance a melody

Jeremy Latham

Chillout / Trance

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