~ swing and its gallop ~

~ the 1/8th note ~ the triplet ~

~ half step lead in ~

~ the evolution of swing ~

' ... the true Americana magic of musical time ...'

In a nutshell. Swing was originally created by one cat in the band who played his melody lines free of the time the band was playing. The elasticity of the musical sounds of the two 'times' happening simultaneously is the basis what we feel and call swing. For back when the whole band was 'chopping wood' four to the bar, adding the melody line in its own time transformed everything. The first to lead this revolution of melodic phrasing with his trumpet and then with voice was Louis Armstrong.

Louis Armstrong
chopping wood

Eventually over a decade or so, artists on each of the instruments heard this idea of 'free time' and figured out how to do on their own ax. So eventually full bands; drums, bass, piano, guitar, and horns and more formed where everybody in the group played the new 'free time' simultaneously and all together all unified by the beat.

dixieland
sololing

Similar to the older original style of dixieland? Yes, but now with a new orchestral focus; one clear, starring solo voice in the lead supported by the whole band playing entire sections of the song solo. Leaning homophonic in style, each soloist in turn getting their chance to lead the group during their own 'improv.'

orchestration
homophonic
improv

"It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing." Coined in the 30's, Duke Ellington's composition and its title captures all of the Americana spirit of his day that still holds true today. As the swing magic is potentially so strong in any sort of 4/4 time, we'll find it, or can create its magic, in every one of our styles, somewhere in every nook and cranny throughout the whole tamale tangle of our evolving Americana musical extravaganza. For swing is core Americana and always welcome.

From children's songs to folk, on through the blues into country, bluegrass, rock, pop and jazz, any hint of swing brings smiles to all involved. It's just that joyous of a rhythm, the part of music that everyone always gets, to hear and not respond to. Maybe a folk can't carry a tune in a bucket but they'll feel the swing. We want to go there as it just feels good and natural. Pioneered by Louis Armstrong at the turn of 20th century, swing is probably the aural sense of the elasticity in musical time that Albert Einstein discovered in the elasticity and bending of light by gravity in mathematical time.

"There's two things in music ..." Louis Armstrong is quoted as saying one time; "there's only two things in music; good and bad. If it sounds good, you don't worry about what it is, just enjoy it. Anything you can pat your foot to is good music." Words of wisdom from the man who inventing swing ... pulled it right out of thin air. Thank you Mr. Armstrong.

The nut in the shell. Not sure I can teach how to swing but I know I can teach what swing is and perhaps even more importantly, how it's physical presence feels in musical time. Once we can feel swing, we just each have to figure out how to transfer it to our chosen instrument. What aspect of our own Americana musical sense of time does the word swing describe. For swing is a physical feeling, and once we learn to conjure it right out of thin air and can really really feel it, we're essentially cool forever and will be able to feel the swing thing in lots of musical styles or places where we catch audible sound rhythms from our world around each of us. Surely learn to conjure swing right here and now, easiest trick in this book.

conjure swing

Swing's And once we know what that is, it's just one of those things that we each have to figure out for ourselves. That no two swing you just got to figure out how to do it yourself. The t is what it is.

in regards to the movement of musical time, i.e., the groove. Once you can feel swing's unique 'pulling' of the beat in your own sense of ongoing movement and dance, to what degree we each in mind and body master natural swing becomes a distinction of those who do and those who don't.

metronome
the wayback machine

So getting the music up off the ground so that it swings in time is the quest here. To understand what swing is all we need is some sound source of a steady beat or pulse to lean it all against. Hipsters in the know, go get your metronome.

metronome
the wayback machine

The Big Four. Our Americana music is mostly based on the big four; which in theory means 4/4 time, four beats to a measure, quarter note gets the beat, various accents. Swing lives everywhere of course but can usually be found hanging around 2 and 4. Once we accent these while moving along in the big four, swing can arrive in just a snap of the fingers.

metronome
the wayback machine

Killing Floor. Getting the music up off the ground so that it swings in time is the quest here. To understand what swing is all we need is some sound source of a steady beat or pulse to lean it all against. Hipsters in the know, go get your metronome.

metronome
the wayback machine

Relax. The essence of swing is its ability to feel relaxed in real time. No wonder that when watching guitar masters of swing perform, we can see from their body language that they are indeed very relaxed yet fully and joyfully engaged.

There's some true audio visual Wes Montgomery video on the web. He's in Europe rehearsing for performance. Seeing the degree of laid back in Montgomery and watching the physical guitar moves that create the aural magic of the swing is priceless. Explore.

Wes Montgomery
the wayback machine

Find 2 and 4. Getting the music up off the ground so that it swings in time is the quest here. To understand what swing is all we need is some sound source of a steady beat or pulse to lean it all against. Hipsters in the know, go get your metronome.

metronome
the wayback machine

Found it ... that's swing. Getting the music up off the ground so that it swings in time is the quest here. To understand what swing is all we need is some sound source of a steady beat or pulse to lean it all against. Hipsters in the know, go get your metronome.

metronome
the wayback machine

The strengthening. Learning to first control then shape the swing is each our own thing on your own terms. your thing. No one can do this for you, ever.

metronome
the wayback machine

A second way in. Luckily the Americana fabric is also an aural tradition, especially so in the blues. So in getting swing into the heart we can sing our way in. Simply find a version of a melody you love that swings and learn to sing along with the melody. Add in the 'finding 2 and 4' from just above into your listening / sing / swing study capstones the process. It won't be long till you begin to feel it. Then the shedding to transfer of to our gits.

metronome
the wayback machine

American swing / Metal, Pop and Rock too? Well, traditionally we don't really say that these styles swing. But for sure there's a BIG pulse or accent on the 2 and 4 beats in vast swaths of the literature. Thus the potential exists for the swing magic to happen. And for many of our guitar favorites, from Charlie Christian on through Stevie Ray Vaughn and beyond, there is an unmistakable sense of swing or gallop in their rhythms. And capturing this sense is what we each are after in our own rhythms.

literature
guitar favorites
gallop

Off the beat swing rhythms.

Well, traditionally we don't really say that these styles swing. But for sure there's a BIG pulse or accent on the 2 and 4 beats in vast swaths of the literature. Thus the potential exists for the swing magic to happen. And for many of our guitar favorites, from Charlie Christian on through Stevie Ray Vaughn and beyond, there is an unmistakable sense of swing or gallop in their rhythms. And capturing this sense is what we each are after in our own rhythms.

lines of rhythm
guitar favorites
gallop

So Swing is about accenting 2 and 4? By accenting the two and four beats of 4/4 time, we create a sort of 'vacuum or pulling' of the time between our unaccented and accented beats. As this little beat big beat gets repeated over and over in a song, we'll start to play with when we actually sound the beats. Trial and error takes over till we each find our own sweet spot.

Over this 2 and 4 groove we negotiate our melody rhythms and interpret the melody of our songs. Traditionally, these lines are either quarter notes or eighth notes, to which oftentimes will add a triplet feel to them. Combining an accented 2 and 4 groove and triplet eighth note feel are our initial raw materials for creating the magic of swing rhythms.

the mix
eight notes
triplets

Different kinds of swing. Perhaps needless to say, there are many different types of swing. Each of us, and of course the players we most admire, hear the groove each in our own unique way and thus swing in our own unique fashion. Musical styles play a role in this too. Of course there is no right or wrong in this. Just simply, does the music swing or not.

 

Cats talk about such things as the 'pocket', 'keeping it loose', the 'groove', 'on top' or 'out front of the groove', 'behind the beat' etc. In essence, all of these terms are describing where the musical time of our melody or improvised melodic lines sits in relation to the accented 2 and 4 beats that motors things along.

How we each get there. The easiest way to get our lines to swing, regardless of the styles we play, is simply to get our vocalizations of our guitar lines to swing first. Then we simply figure out how to transfer this feel to our guitar lines. Easier said than done for sure, one trick for emerging cats is to make easy melodies swing. Another is to work with a metronome, having a pulse to lean into as we negotiate where the swing time lives for us.

scat singing
making easy melodies swing
metronome

 

 

Swing / the triplet. The easiest way to get our lines to swing, regardless of the styles we play, is simply to get our vocalizations of our guitar lines to swing first. Then we simply figure out how to transfer this feel to our guitar lines. Easier said than done for sure, one trick for emerging cats is to make easy melodies swing. Another is to work with a metronome, having a pulse to lean into as we negotiate where the swing time lives for us.

scat singing
making easy melodies swing
metronome

 

 

The cool thing about swing rhythms is that once we got them in our memories ... we got them. The swing feel never really goes away. We further evolve by finding different ways to swing in various musical settings or tonal environments and then cross pollinate to bring forth new potentials.

evolution of swing

No two cats swing the same. As we each develop our abilities to express the music within, we evolve in our own unique ways. How are hands work, what instruments we have, what we learned early on all will shape our development. And while we will emulate, transcribe or memorize music from the masters we dig most, keep in mind that we each have our own way of working the magic. That originality is cherished and creates the artistic signature we recognize when we hear the legendary cats we most admire.

transcribe
artistic signature
legends

Wes Montgomery. Jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, while historically mostly noted for his octave melody playing, created a new depth of swing for guitarists. He achieves this mostly by his phrasing around 2 and 4 but also a gradual 'evening' up of his 8th notes. These more deliberate sounding 'even 8th's', perhaps initially borrowed from the Latin cats, eventually becomes the new norm for swing to this day. Deeply blues hued, Mr. Montgomery's sense of time and swing redefined American jazz guitar in the 1950's and forward.

octaves
even 8th's

Daune Allman. While Duane Allman was mostly a blues based Cat, his playing with jazz drummer Jaimoe helped Mr. Allman find a new swinging sense within the 2 and 4 of the blues / rock world that eventually became to be known as Southern Rock. A core part of Allman's intensity is built through the multiple repetition of an idea and its gradual morphing of the time and its rhythm.

With this technique Duane built climaxed solo's that can almost make your hair stand up. It's oftentimes in this repetition of a few notes or musical phrase where we can most clearly hear the rhythmic pull of the melody pitches against the 2 and 4 of the drumming that creates Duane's unique sense of a very hard driving swing. One of many Allman Brothers tunes to spin to hear his sense of time and swing is ?????.

Octave doubling. The brightest chord in the universe also swings the hardest? Maybe, you decide.

music notation

Making a children's song swing. The brightest chord in the universe also swings the hardest? Maybe, you decide.

music notation

Making a folk song swing. The brightest chord in the universe also swings the hardest? Maybe, you decide.

music notation

Making a blues tune swing. The easiest way to is to invoke 12 / 8 time. Ya hip? 12 / 8 simply implies that.

Making a rock swing. The brightest chord in the universe also swings the hardest? Maybe, you decide.

music notation

Making a country tune swing. The brightest chord in the universe also swings the hardest? Maybe, you decide.

music notation

Making a pop song swing. The brightest chord in the universe also swings the hardest? Maybe, you decide.

music notation

Making a jazz tune swing. The brightest chord in the universe also swings the hardest? Maybe, you decide.

music notation

Tonic 6/9. The brightest chord in the universe also swings the hardest? Maybe, you decide.

music notation

Blues 13 chord. This voicing is a rock solid Americana jazz blues as was ever imagined by mere mortals.

half step
music notation

5th string minor 9. Is there any easier chord to bring on the passion of it all? Not to mention the alternating bass of it all.

half step
music notation

5th string half diminished. Is there any easier chord to bring on the passion of it all? Not to mention the alternating bass of it all.

half step
music notation

 

(1)Burns, Ken. (Producer) (1990) Jazz [DVD], PBS Home Video, vol.2, The Gift @ 15 minutes. United States: www.pbs.org. In this part of the presentation, Louis Armstrong performs the composition "Dinah." This song has passed out of copyright thus is common domain.

 

 

(1)Burns, Ken. (Producer) (1990) Jazz [DVD], PBS Home Video, vol.2, The Gift @ 15 minutes. United States: www.pbs.org. In this part of the presentation, Louis Armstrong performs the composition "Dinah."