# Understanding swing rhythm

It's my first time trying to learn something with a swing rhythm. I believe I understand how to play four consecutive 16th notes with swing, but how am I supposed to play the highlighted parts in measure 7? My current guess is that I perceive the 8th notes as two connected 16th notes and swing it as I would four distinct 16th notes (which is what the other hand is doing in both cases). I'm not completely sure though because I've been playing the highlighted part in measure 5 without any swing since that sounded natural to me. But maybe I really should be swinging that too? Is there a general rule of thumb to apply here?

## 4 Answers

Take a good listen at this video of "Raindrop Flower" from MapleStory, especially at 0.5x speed (so the 16th-note swing is more apparent):

Yes, treat the central 8th notes as if they are tied swing 16th notes in the exact same positions. The original/video version plays all those central 8th notes that way (i.e. 4 16th notes in a row are ooone e aaand a, 16th note-8th note-16th note in one beat are ooone e-aaand a).

There are many ways of playing and interpreting swing. However, swing in its most basic form is a way of applying a triplet feel to straight notes. Instead of playing two evenly spaced notes you play 2+1 of a triplet in the same time frame. The most common are 8th notes but 16th notes are also widely used. Here is the progression and subdivision of the rhythm in question, a 16th-8th-16th in one beat with a swing feel instruction. The blue numbers under the measures indicate the occurrence and durations of each note:

1. It starts with 6 triplet 16th notes

2. The swing 16th feel comes from playing notes 1,3,4,6

3. Notes 3 and 4 are tied, leaving you with notes 1,3,6.

This is the true swing subdivision of that rhythm. It is definitely different from the straight version of this rhythm, which has a subdivision of 4 and is played on notes 1,2,4.

• A picture paints a thousand words - here, it does exactly that. +1.
– Tim
Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 8:14

While Tim provided the correct way to notate the rhythm in question (assuming triplet swing realization), I'd like to address this:

I've been playing the highlighted part in measure 5 without any swing since that sounded natural to me

It is common at high tempi to play more shallow swing, i.e. more similar to a straight division. This is not the case in the recording quoted by Dekkadeci, but it's not surprising that less swing may feel natural to you.

• 'Twasn't I, 'twas John. Can't take credit where it's not due!
– Tim
Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 16:27
• It is true that the line between swing and straight rhythm can become more blurred as the tempo increases. I actually meant to mention that in my answer but didn’t get around to it. Glad you did. Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 19:41

Swing notation is peculiar. The correct, or at least approximate, notation would be the 1st and 3rd of a triplet … which is hard to write and read with all those pauses in between.

Now, if you do it by hand, the result looks like two consecutive eighth notes. So convention is to put the keyword "swing" and play them as above’s triplet, to make notation simpler. // Preview: So the first measure plays 4 triplet of swing AND has 8 of them (where 4 are just silent).

In your case the reference are 16th notes, i.e. 2 of them are a triplet by the definition of swing. I understand the highlighted parts as this instruction:

• play 3 notes in the time period of 2 triplets
• distribute them "uniformly"

To solve this puzzle expand them into 2 triplets with all 6 notes, and delete 3 of them. Then you see where they are intended to be in time:

``````1 2 3 1 2 3 // 2 expanded triplets
1 . 2 . 3 . // keeping 3 of them equally distributed in time
``````

So you could describe it as a swing triplet followed by its inverse (exchanging beats for pauses and vice versa).

When practicing I made good experience to go through all 8 combinations of playing 0, 1, 2 or 3 notes of a triplet. Then none of the above remains a problem while playing. // This may be useful for the bass clef notes in meas. 5, for example.