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Swung note

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Swing time redirects here. For the film, see Swing Time. For other uses of the term see swing.

In music, a swung note or shuffle note is the rhythmic device in which the duration of the initial note in a pair is augmented and that of the second is diminished. A swing or shuffle rhythm is the rhythm produced by playing repeated pairs of notes in this way. Lilting can refer to swinging, but might also indicate syncopation or other subtle ways of interpreting and shaping musical time.

In some jazz music, especially of the big band era, there is a convention that pairs of written eighth notes are not played equally--as the notation would otherwise be understood--but with the first longer than the second. The first note of each of these pairs is often understood to be twice as long as the second, implying a triplet feel, but in practice the difference is rarely that pronounced (see "amount of swing," below). This is an assumed convention of notation in many styles of jazz, but usually does not apply to jazz before the early 1930s, latin jazz, bebop, or to the work of composers writing in the 1950s or later, unless "swing" is specified in the score.

Notes that are not swung are known as straight notes.

In dance, swing or shuffle time or rhythm is music whose metre is that of common time played with a swing. It may be written as simple time and played with a swing, or as compound time and played as written. See transcribing swing rhythms below.

See also swing (genre) for musical style, and swing (dance) for styles of dance.

Amount of swing

Composers sometimes indicate swing rhythms by marking their scores with an indication that pairs of eighth notes should be treated as a quarter and an eighth in a triplet bracket. In actuality, swing rhythms range anywhere from slightly asymmetrical pairs to imbalances of a more pronounced sort. The subtler end of the range involves treating written pairs of eighth notes as slightly asymmetrical pairs of similar values. On the other end of the spectrum, the "dotted eighth - sixteenth" rhythm, consists of a long note three times as long as the short. Prevalent "dotted rhythms" such as these in the rhythm section of dance bands in the mid 20th century are more accurately described as a "shuffle"; they are also an important feature of baroque dance and many other styles. Rhythms identified as swung notes most commonly fall somewhere between straight eighths and a quarter-eighth triplet pattern.

The following points of reference are reliable only as approximations of musical practice:

  • 1:1 = eighth note + eighth note, "straight eighths."
  • \approx1.5:1 = long eighth + short eighth, "swing"
  • 2:1 = triplet quarter note + triplet eighth, triple meter; "hard swing", or "shuffle."
  • 3:1 = dotted eighth note + sixteenth note

Since a swung note is actually not a note of the named length (a swung eighth note is not an eighth note), some musicians consider this term a misnomer.

Swing rhythm

In jazz, this interpretive device is assumed in most written music other than dixieland, latin jazz, jazz-funk (soul-jazz) and jazz-fusion and bebop, but may also be indicated. For example, "Satin Doll", a swing era jazz standard is normally interpreted with a pronounced swing rhythm. It was published written in 4/4 time, but at least some versions also note medium swing.

In dance music, swing rhythm generally refers to the metre of the music, rather than to this convention of notation, so any music played with the "near-triplet" timing (see above) and swing accent will be referred to as swing rhythm however they are written.


Main article: Swing (genre)

Swing is commonly used in blues, country, jazz, Swing (genre), and often in many other styles. Except for very fast jazz, slow ballads and latin jazz, much written music in jazz is assumed to be performed with a swing rhythm, although publishers sometimes specify "with a swing". In jazz and big band music, a shuffle is almost always accompanied by a distinctive cooking rhythm played on the ride cymbal or hi hat.

Styles that always use traditional (triplet) rhythms, resembling "hard swing," include:

  • Music for foxtrot, quickstep and some other ballroom dances.
  • Swing.

Styles that sometimes use swing rhythms include:

  • Early rock and roll such as Bill Haley's Shake, Rattle and Roll and Rock Around the Clock, Buddy Holly's That'll Be The Day, and Elvis Presley's Jailhouse Rock. In later rock and roll music it is unusual but not unknown.
  • Country and western
  • Blues
  • Big band

Transcribing swing rhythms

In the swing era, swing meant accented triplets (shuffle rhythm), suitable for dancing. With the development of bebop and later jazz styles independent of dancing, the term was used for far more general timings. There is much debate over use of other ratios than 2:1 in swing rhythms.

Some publishers of jazz music, especially those whose intended audience is people unfamiliar with jazz styles, transcribe the swing either:

  • As compound time, such as 6/8, 9/8, or 12/8. When played with the swing accent, these time signatures may be grouped together and called swing time, or swing time can also mean a simple time played with the swing convention.
  • As triplets within a duple meter.

In general, where music with a swing metre is required, musicians in the jazz tradition will prefer to read music written in common time and played with a swing, while musicians in the classical tradition will prefer to read music written in compound time and played as written.

See also

  • Notes inégales, a 17th-century French usage of similar metres and notation.
  • Swing (genre) for music of the swing era.
  • Clave (rhythm) for the rhythms of latin jazz and latin dances.
  • Schaffel music swing and shuffle beats in electronic music

Further reading

  • Floyd, Samuel A., Jr. (Fall 1991). "Ring Shout! Literary Studies, Historical Studies, and Black Music Inquiry", Black Music Research Journal 11:2, p.265-28. Featuring a socio-musicological description of swing in African American music.
  • Rubin, Dave (1996). Art of the Shuffle for guitar, an exploration of shuffle, boogie, and swing rhythms. ISBN 0-7935-4206-5.

External links

  • A definition of swing
  • Another definition
  • It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing,

Just Jazz Guitar Magazine Article (PDF) Aug 2003 Article is a look at swing timing, what we mean by swing and working on swing feel.

  • Blues shuffle for guitar
  • Jazz Drummers' Swing Ratio in Relation to Tempo
  • Ensemble swing
  • Why jazz swings
  • Jazz swing drummers groove analysis
  • A mathematical model for swing ratios
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