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Break beat (sometimes break-beats or breaks) is a term used to describe a collection of sub-genres of electronic music, usually characterised by the use of a non-straightened 4/4 drum pattern (as opposed to the steady four on the floor beat of house). These rhythms may be characterised by their intensive use of syncopation and poly rhythms. Traditionally, a 'break' is considered to be the part of a funk or jazz song during which the melody "breaks" to let the rhythm section, or soloist, play unaccompanied. Break beat (or funky break beat or broken beat) may also refer to the music of bands who play funk and soul music with an emphasis on the elements that became popular in hip-hop and later breaks-based music. This sound is characterised by slower tempos (80-110 bpm) and organic, "human" rhythms. It is sometimes differentiated by the term "broken beat".

A particular drum loop that contributed to the beginning of the genre and is frequently used is the so-called "Amen break", sampled from a 1969 recording of a song named "Amen Brother" by a soul group named The Winston. This four-bar drum loop contains a characteristic dotted-note timing variant in the snare drum in the third bar, which leaves the third beat of the bar un-played and surrounds it with a syncopation. Early turntables used a slowed-down recording of the song on two turntables and rocked both back and forth alternately to create a variety of complex patterns that were more interesting than an unchanging 4/4 beat, but still dance able. Mixes and variations have subsequently appeared on many sample packs and CD's, and the break has been used in a huge number of songs in this and other genres.

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