View Full Version : What is Swing?

09-06-2003, 04:29 AM
I've heard this term used constantly when reading about jazz guitar. What does this mean?

Bongo Boy
09-06-2003, 04:39 AM
From http://www2.kenyon.edu I have a definition of swing rhythm:

Swing rhythm is based on two emphasized subdivisions of the beat which adds a horizontal feel to the music. The stress comes on the first beat and the moment the second third and the third quarter of the beat. Needless to say, this does not follow a regular, steady rhythm....and a definition of swing music:

Swing music varies in many ways--one of its most important aspects is that it allows the musicians a great deal of freedom to improvise. The big bands of the Swing Era were characterized by brighter, louder sounds played by large bands, usually of sixteen or more. These bands tended to use musical techniques such as playing sections of music against one another--in counterpoint or musical dialogue--or reiterating one particular phrase of music (called a riff). The melodies, the rhythms, and even the lyrics were often improvised by the musicians and vocalists. However, what consistently identifies swing's sound is its dense, rhythm-driven quality.You can also look at say 4 successive eigth notes in a tune, but play them more like dotted eighth, 16th, dotted eighth, 16th and this provides a 'swing' to the rhythm, as an example.

Thank goodness we don't need to build aircraft using definitions of things provided my Music People, eh? :D

09-06-2003, 04:57 AM
So it's more of a 'feel'? How does one learn how to swing?

09-06-2003, 07:46 AM
Practice playing triplet rhythms and counting to yourself "1-and-a-2-and-a" etc etc and once you are pretty comfortable with that, stop strumming the "and" of the triplet beat. So it basically be,
"1----a-2----a-3----a-4----a". Like Bongo said, swing is about feel so in some cases the swing could be held out longer almost to a dotted 8th-16th note rhythm and others would feel much closer to a straight triplet rhythm. Just listen to a lot of jazz music and try to get a feel for the different types of swing that are used.

Bongo Boy
09-06-2003, 04:40 PM
Also, here's an example. If you go to this thread and look at the 3rd from last post (or so), I posted an MP3 of my attempt to play Autumn Leaves, a jazz standard.

Now, I've selected this not because it's good playing okay? It's a very simple melody, played very primitively by a beginner (me). But, I do think it shows just a little bit of 'swing'. If you compare how I've played it to how it's written on the page, I think you'll hear that I've dragged some of the lead-in notes, and shortened (and stacattoed) the following notes, giving the tune a little rhythm.

Again, it's inconsistent, rudimentary single-note playing, but I think it is an easy way to hear a 'swing' sound applied to a standard--not necessarily appropriate to the tune, I might add.