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Section 14.5 Afterbeats and Offbeats

Subsection 14.5.1 Afterbeats

The term “afterbeats” is from Fundamentals of Musical Composition by noted composer and pedagogue Arnold Schoenberg. “Afterbeats” are repeated chords (usually eighth notes, sometimes quarter notes) that occur after the downbeat.

Figure 14.5.1. Beethoven, Piano Sonata Op. 2, No. 1, IV

In the next example, the afterbeats are not repeated chords but instead are passing-tone figures harmonized in thirds.

Figure 14.5.2. Mozart, Piano Sonata K. 279, III

Subsection 14.5.2 Offbeats

Offbeats are typically chords that occur regularly on upbeats, avoiding downbeats. While there are many styles of music that use chordal offbeats, in this section we will consider only polka and reggae styles.

Subsubsection 14.5.2.1 Polka

The polka, which originated in Bohemia, has connotations with Germary and Oktoberfest. The polka in the United States is often associated with Frankie Yankovic, who was known as the “Polka King.”

Figure 14.5.3. Vejvoda, “Beer Barrel Polka”

Subsubsection 14.5.2.2 Reggae

Reggae is associated with the island of Jamaica and, in terms of texture, is characterized by offbeats, often played on an electric guitar. Bob Marley is closely associated with reggae music.

Figure 14.5.4. Marley, “Could You Be Loved”

By the late 1970s, British bands like The Police and UB40 were recording songs that used the reggae accompanimental style.

Figure 14.5.5. Sumner, “Walking on the Moon” (1979)
Figure 14.5.6. Diamond, “Red Red Wine” (recorded in 1983 by UB40)

Reggae accompanimental texture is fairly common in the present day, as can be heard in the following examples.

Figure 14.5.7. Stefani and Stewart, “Underneath It All” (2001)
Figure 14.5.8. Mraz, “I'm Yours” (2007)
Figure 14.5.9. Atwey, Messinger, Pellizzer, Spivak, Tanas, “Rude” (2013)