how do you teach the difference between swing and the dotted eighth-sixteenth rhythm pattern

  • I think 4/4 swung is translatable as 12/8 - each crothet beat divided into triplet quavers. – Tim Feb 14 '17 at 14:02
  • 2 eighths in swing is an eights triplet with the first 2 tied. Once you know how to differentiate the triplets from the dotted eighth - sixteenth you're mostly done. – user1803551 Feb 14 '17 at 14:10
  • 1
    Needs more context: who are you trying to teach? what style of music? etc. – Dave Feb 14 '17 at 14:26
  • I conduct an adult concert band Grade 3+ music and the question arose while the trumpets were playing for the first time a section from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the Trombones said they were swinging it - which when I listened again closer could hear the swing. – Jerry Feb 15 '17 at 13:16
  • Sing it. Dance it. No, really, try these approaches. – Carl Witthoft Feb 15 '17 at 14:19

Here's a simple graphical explanation:

enter image description here

On the left you can see how the notation looks like (2 versions), and on the right is shown how you're supposed to actually play it.

  • It should be noted that the notation on the right is only an approximation--the actual value of the notes may vary depending on tempo and other considerations. For that reason, I think any lesson on swing eighth notes should include a listening component. – Bruce Fields Feb 14 '17 at 21:33

In my experience, you need to hear it. The two rhythms (triplet swing, and dotted quaver-semiquaver) seem quite similar, but different once you hear them. Trying to count the difference whilst playing is a recipe for confusion.

Note that I'm assuming there isn't a marking making the two notations identical. Sometimes the dotted quaver-semiquaver marking implies a triplet swing, but not always.

So, I'd pick a couple of good recordings, or play the various rhythms to a student myself. You have to feel the swing for it to work. I'm aware that sounds rather nebulous, but I don't think you can effectively count it. To me, the dotted quaver-semiquaver rhythm sounds more abrupt and jerky. Almost like you try and play the semiquaver on the start of the next beat, but not quite. An example which (unfortunately) comes to mind is the vocal riff at the start of Uptown Funk. You may have less annoying examples.

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