Swung note

Swung note

In music, a swung note or shuffle note is a rhythmic device in which the duration of the initial note in a pair is augmented and that of the second is diminished. Also known as "notes inégales", swung notes are widely used in jazz music and other jazz-influenced music such as blues and Western swing. A swing or shuffle rhythm is the rhythm produced by playing repeated pairs of notes in this waycite web |title=Blues Shuffle Rhythm |publisher=How To Play Blues Guitar |date=2008-07-21 |accessdate=2008-07-22 |url=http://how-to-play-blues-guitar.com/blues-concepts/blues-shuffle-rhythm/] . "Lilting" can refer to swinging, but might also indicate syncopation or other subtle ways of interpreting and shaping musical time.

In shuffle rhythm, the first note in the pair is exactly twice the duration of the second note. In swing the division is inexact, and varies depending on factors such as how fast or slow the music is, on the genre of music, or the individual tastes of the performer. In swing the division can vary anywhere from almost equal (typically at fast tempos) to almost shuffle (typically at slow tempos).

In dance, swing or shuffle time or rhythm is music whose meter 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 "Transcription" below.

In most styles of music that use swing rythm, the music is written with straight eighth notes, with an implicit understanding that eighth notes should be played with swing feel.

In jazz, the verb "to swing" is also used as a term of praise for playing that has a strong rhythmic " groove" or drive. See also "swing (genre)" for the 1930s-1940s jazz style, and "swing (dance)" for styles of dance from that same era.


Triplets are used in many styles of music including blues, rock and countrySchroedl, Scott (2001). "Play Drums Today!", p.36. Hal Leonard. ISBN 0-634-02185-0.] . The "basic shuffle rhythm" is created by "leaving out (resting) the middle note of each three-note triplet group." This "triplet" idea allows composers and improvising soloists to include triplets in the melody without clashing with any rhythm patterns.

In most jazz music, especially of the big band era, and later, 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 quarter note-eighth note triplet feel, but in practice the difference is rarely that pronouncedcite web |title=Jazz Drummers' Swing Ratio in Relation to Tempo |publisher=Acoustical Society of America |accessdate=2008-07-22 |url=http://www.acoustics.org/press/137th/friberg.html] .

*Various Rhythmic Swing Approximations:
**1:1 = eighth note + eighth note, "straight eighths." Audio|Shuffle feel straight.mid|play rhythm from introduction with no shuffle, as straight eighths
**approx 3:2 = long eighth + short eighth, "swing" or "shuffle" Audio|Shuffle feel in between.mid|play example with light swing
**2:1 = triplet quarter note + triplet eighth, triple meter; "medium swing" or "medium shuffle" Audio|Shuffle feel.mid|play example
**3:1 = dotted eighth note + sixteenth note; "hard swing", or "hard shuffle" Audio|Shuffle feel dotted eighth.mid|play example with hard swing

In true swing feel, the ratio lies somewhere between 1:1 and 1:2, and can vary considerably.

Swing feel is an assumed convention of notation in many styles of jazz, but usually does not apply to jazz before the early 1930sFact|date=October 2008, or latin jazz. In big band, blues, bebop, and contemporary jazz, swing feel is assumed, unless "shuffle" is explicitly specified in the score. Notes that are not swung are called straight notes.

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 - one 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" [citation needed] ; 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.

Swing ratios tend to get get wider at slower tempos and narrower at faster tempos. Miles Davis varied his swing ratios, frequently delaying the first note of each pair of eighth notes by some milliseconds and then synchronized the second eighth note with the drummer's swing eighths being played on the cymbal. Advanced performers often "lay back" or play "behind the beat" when performing jazz melodies by delaying the rhythms by milliseconds. Quarter notes can sound swung when they are played slightly behind the beat, detached, and accented on the two and four. Or late on one and three, but closer to the beat on two and four. Phrases swing when they begin between the beats. similar to how straight eighths can swing when they are behind the beat which creates an asymmetrical cross rhythm.


In jazz, this interpretive device is assumed in most written music other than dixieland, latin jazz, jazz-funk (soul-jazz) and jazz-fusion, 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 meter 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.


Swing is commonly used in blues, country, jazz, 1930s-1940s swing jazz, and often in many other styles. Except for very fast jazz, slow ballads, latin jazz, and jazz-rock fusion, much written music in jazz is assumed to be performed with a swing rhythm. In some cases, publishers specify that the music is to be performed "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 foxtrot, quickstep and some other ballroom dances, Stride piano, and 1920s-era Novelty piano (the successor to Ragtime style).

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".
* Country and western
* Blues, especially 1930 Swing jazz-infused Jump blues
* Ragtime
* Big band jazz
* Some types of modern rock, particularly punk rock, pop-punk, and alternative rock. Recent examples include "Holiday" by Green Day and "Tarantula" by Smashing Pumpkins


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.

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.

However, this notation is not really accurate either.

In general, where music with a swing meter 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. However, most jazz musicians would would dispute whether music played this way truly has a swing feel.

ee also

*Notes inégales, a 17th-century French usage of similar meters and notation.
*Swing (genre) for music of the "swing era".
*Clave (rhythm) for the rhythms of latin jazz and latin dance.
*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.


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