Suomeksi | In English

Swing

Swing is a form of notation in which the beat (typically a crotchet) is divided into two parts, and the former part is longer and more accented than the latter.

With two consecutive quavers, the first is exactly twice the duration of the second. In other words, the relationship of the durations is 67/33 when the notation shows a relationship of 50/50. The relationship of the durations depends on several factors, one of which is the tempo. In fast tempos (and in very slow tempos), the relationship approaches that shown by the notation.

In theory, the two extreme relationships are 50/50 and 75/25, the equivalent of a dotted quaver and a consequent semiquaver. Dotted rhythms are sometimes interpreted as swing. An example of this is the following excerpt from the beginning of a Christmas song, written in different song books either as in a) or b). The actual implementation of the melody, however, often sounds like c). The music is written to be easily readable, and the musician is trusted to adopt the correct performance practice.

Swing rhythm is related to the concept of unequal durations.

The term notes inegalés denotes the manner in French baroque music in which certain notes are played as "swung" when they have a specific relation to the time signature. Researchers have noticed that successive notes representing the same time value may have been played with unequal durations as early as the Middle Ages.

Jazz applies a fixed notation for swing (see below):

  • a crotchet is often played shorter than the actual duration if there is no tenuto sign above it
  • successive quavers (the first accented) are played with the relationship of 67/33 (or 2:1)
  • a pause in syncopated rhythms is commonplace
  • a dotted crotchet can have various interpretations; the example below shows perhaps the most common interpretation
    1. a staccato is always short without an accent
    2. a "housetop" or "Teepee Accent" (sforzato) is always short
    3. a horizontal accent is longer but does not necessarily last for the whole duration
    4. a tenuto shows the whole duration