*Just as a little aside: I did a lot of demoing with my voice and props this week... so there will be things that won't appear here that really make things clearer*
Alrighty so last week the question of “What Makes It Swing?” Was asked
Swing does refer to a few different things in music,
From the online Encyclopedia Brittanica:
Swing, in music, both the rhythmic impetus of jazz music and a specific jazz idiom prominent between about 1935 and the mid-1940s—years sometimes called the swing era. Swing music has a compelling momentum that results from musicians’ attacks and accenting in relation to fixed beats. Swing rhythms defy any narrower definition, and the music has never been notated exactly.
So that’s about as clear as mud. Let’s break this up, first by figuring out what this sounds like.
So everything I’m about to say is as accurate as I can make it, but as always, I’m not an expert, I’m an enthusiastic educator who does her best to make things understandable. I am not a professor of music theory or jazz but that may actually be an advantage for this.
So back to our definition, we’re going to pick it a part.
a compelling momentum that results from musicians’ attacks and accenting in relation to fixed beats.
We’ll start with fixed beats. We can do this.
The fixed beat referred to here is most often a quarter note, [Clap 1 2 3 4] often the bassist will be providing a “Walking” bass run. [Sing blues walking bass while clapping]
Ok so that’s our fixed beat,
Now, Let’s look at what the guitar is doing, Like the bassist, the Rhythm guitar player is usually playing quarter notes as well, however, they will be placing an accent or emphasis on beats 2 & 4 [Clap this] that sounds like this on the guitar [Play G6 Blues]
And now what’s our drummer doing?
Our drummer at most basic will be walking the dog [Voice demo] desk demo.
See if you can hear and identify some of these elements in this track.
This is “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You” Humphrey Lyttelton & His band with Kathleen Stobart (On tenor sax) Year
Swing music has a compelling momentum that results from musicians’ attacks and accenting in relation to fixed beats. Swing rhythms defy any narrower definition, and the music has never been notated exactly.
The momentum here must be in reference to our 8thnotes, up till now we’ve been dealing in quarter notes
In a straight rhythmic feel we divide each quarter evenly in two. [Sounds like 1 + 2+ etc)
For swing, we divide quarters into two eigth notes but instead of this being an even division, the first 8thgets more of the space, and the second one gets squished up closer to the next beat. [listen to violin scale with image shared]
This can if notated look like this[showslide], but, depending on the groove, it may be that the first note gets more than 2/3 of the beat, and the second note gets squished even closer to the next. It’s also super chaotic to try to read a chart notated this way.
The general consensus there fore is to write it out as if it’s straight 8ths, and scrawl swing at the top, or 8ths=triplet quarter eight.
Up next we have the Vivien Garry Quintet, with Operation Mop from 1946
Led by Bassist Vivien Garry, on fiddle we have Ginger Smock, Wini Beatty on piano,
Ok I promised a Score, a big band score, so now that we have an idea of what we’re listen to in relation to what we are looking at lets listen to a quintessential big band swing number.
The Glenn Miller Orchestra with Tuxedo junction. Reading scores is challenging even when you’re used to it, so if you are not a reader, if this looks like polkadots, I challenge you to follow our dear friend the bassist. I’ll try to switch the pages in the right places. If you want a bit more of a challenge, follow the trumpet line, or the saxes.
If you get lost there are a couple places with really unique sounds that might get you back on track.
Everything we’ve heard so far has had a swing feel, now, I’m going to do a palette cleanser; We’re going to listen to some Bach. This is straight rhythm, I have the violin score, which I will share. Concerto for 2 violins in D minor – London Symphony
And now because no music is born in a vacuum, from 1937, Improvisations on Concerto for 2 violins, Stephane Grappelli & Eddie South on Violins, Django Reinhardt on Guitar.
What do we do?
Join us to be inspired by music from around the world, no preparation, prerequisites, or practicing required. I’ll read a short composer bio, highlight some historically relevant material or interesting context, we’ll listen to a piece of music, and then take the time to reflect on what we heard, ask questions, and explore.