I'm a student and have been playing exercises that are either straight 8ths, swing 8ths, straight 16ths or swing 16ths. I'm wondering if there's a term for these different rhythms. If used in a sentence, it might look like "straight 16ths is a different [term goes here] than swing 16ths".

I thought perhaps meter, but that doesn't seem right. Rhythmic feel or rhythmic subdivision might describe it, looking to see if there's an accepted musical term.

  • 2
    Pretty sure "feel" is actually the best term. Aug 2, 2015 at 13:01

4 Answers 4


Feel works, and I believe you can also say style or groove.


Groove. Wikipedia: Groove is the sense of propulsive rhythmic "feel" or sense of "swing" created by the interaction of the music played by a band's rhythm section (drums, electric bass or double bass, guitar, and keyboards).

Feel and style also work but aren't as specific.

  • I originally disagreed, but I think groove makes the most sense too in the context of an ensemble that would be playing both.
    – mkingsbu
    Aug 3, 2015 at 17:23

Feel is what's typically used then talking about straight vs swing. I've also seen the terms rhythm used to talk about straight vs swing.

You could use either when talking about it as these are the typical terms used to compare and contrast them.


If I understand your question correctly, the answer is: "prolation". There are two concepts with rhythm, meter - the number of beats in a measure and prolation - the number of subdivisions of the meter. Straight 8's are duple meter, duple prolation and Swing 8's are duple meter triple prolation.

Due to the church origins of these terms, where 3 was divine - think father, son, holy ghost - triple anything was called "perfect" and duple "imperfect". So swing 8's would be called imperfect meter, perfect prolation.

Hope that doesn't confuse things more!

  • prolation or probation? Aug 3, 2015 at 7:15
  • @NoelWalters I'll bet 'probation' was an autocorrect typo--I edited.
    – NReilingh
    Aug 3, 2015 at 13:23
  • 2
    It's prolation. Did something change that? Anyway, it's not a term used much nowadays. It is, however, the origin of that C you see on the staff which everyone says is "Common Time." It's actually an imperfect (broken) circle, denoting imperfect (duple) meter or prolation. I don't remember which; originally there were two circles, one inside the other. One for meter, the other for prolation. Over time one of the circles got lost.
    – Phil Smith
    Aug 3, 2015 at 14:46
  • This is a great response (and comment) - thank you. Gave me something to look into. Unfortunately I don't know enough quite yet to be able to tell if this is the term I was looking for or not. I certainly appreciate you sharing the information! Aug 7, 2015 at 14:33

For your two examples in particular we have a very precise naming convention in german. Let's see if this works in english, too.

'Achtel-Feeling' vs. 'Triolet-Feeling'

As you can see the word 'Feeling' is very german ;-)))

In english this would be STRAIGHT- FEEL vs. SWING-FEEL...

Groove is the groove of a LP(LongPlay, Schelack, Record) and just means that it is 'in the groove' -> correctly reproducing the content, whether it be STRAIGHT or SWINGY...

So I guess FEEL and GROOVE sound very contemporary to what and how we want to express this phenomena. STYLE is already to categorizing (music styles)...

And I have to sadly admit that in my half decade as a professional musician I have never heard the term PROLATION - shame on me - great response though...

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