there is already another thread that is discussing swing eigths on the this forum:

posted by jazzwee:

"if the eighth note on the on beat is very long and the eighth note on the offbeat is very short, then you will have an extreme swing style like wynton kelly.

or you can make your eighth notes more evenly sized instead of the heavy triplet feel, then accent the offbeat. the style will be more along the lines of herbie hancock.

or you can play the lines marcato (detached) -- in other words non-legato, add the accents on the offbeat and you will sound like chick corea."
There are 12 comments, leave a comment.
i would like an analysis of subtle differences of the swing eighths, and their relation to the beat, of the players bud powell, sonny clark, wynton kelly and red garland.

i would also like to discuss the swing eighths of bill evans, herbie hancock and keith jarrett.
it's always difficult to attempt any kind of accurate analysis of swing eighths - there is so much room for individual articulation within the basic framework that is impossible to notate with conventional notation.

everyone is probably aware of the traditional approximated notation of a  triplet with the first two quavers tied together.  however, anyone that's ever put that notation into a computer program will have found that it really doesn't swing at all.  as discussed in another recent thread, the importance of articulation and accenting the off beat have a huge part to play in making a line swing.

having said that, there are some general observations that we can make about the players jazz+ has listed.  it's fairly safe to say that swung quavers have become more even in length as time has gone on.  jazzwee had it spot on with:

"if the eighth note on the on beat is very long and the eighth note on the offbeat is very short, then you will have an extreme swing style like wynton kelly."

i would also add the same is true of red garland and similar players.  i also think they accent their offbeats more than more modern players.

bill evans is kind of hard to quantify as, to me, he often seems to make the triplet his basic underlying currency rather than the quaver.  even when he does play a line of quavers, he often puts so many triplet embellishments in those lines that it makes it hard to analyse his quavers in the same way.  as a result of this his rhythm sections play in a unique way behind him - that wonderful 'skipping' swing (often most noticeable with a two feel) that they pretty much all play.  

as i write this, i'm listening to keith jarrett (at the dear head inn) and i've never really noticed this before but his shorter phrases are more 'swingy' in the conventioinal red garland way but his longer lines become less 'swung' and more legato - almost to the point of being 'straight'.

many of the modern pianists such as gareth williams and gwilym simcock play very straight legato line.  for my money, these days swung quavers are kind of like the traditional 'ten-to-two' swing ride cymbal pattern - we know it's always there even if it's not being played.  this means drummers are free to play other things.  in the same way, the modern listener knows what swung quavers sound like so modern pianists don't need to play them.

btw, forgive my englishness - for anyone who doesn't know quavers=eighth notes.  

looking forward to other people's input.

this is just my observation. historically speaking, it almost seems that getting the swing impulse started off with just the triplet feel, but the younger musicians (like jarrett, corea, herbie, and later bill evans), realized that they could accomplish that same impulse by just focusing on the offbeat and accents, and without actually having a triplet feel at all. this is interesting because it shows their advanced appreciation of rhythm.

now i listen to brad mehldau and it sounds to me like he's found a variance of all of the above. he's playing usually straight eights but will start or end the line on the offbeat at a point that implies the swing but he doesn't belabor it in the whole line so it's hard identify the actual existence of a triplet feel. i'm basing this on watch the "i'll be seeing you" video on his website. this i think is similar to the concept of duke ellington adjusting the size of his quarter notes so they swing. what i mean here is that the quarter note is near the size of two eight notes in a triplet, it swings.

it's interesting how this sound is evolving over time.

wynton kelly  

bill evans playing "nardis" (swinging)

bill evans playing "gloria's step" (more even eighths)

keith jarrett playing "autumn leaves"  

herbie hancock "so what"

brad mehldau "i'll be seeing you"
new scientist vol 168 issue 2270 - 23 december 2000, page 48  

it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. but what is swing?  

when the musical west side story opened in london in 1958 the producers had a real problem. they didn't know who should occupy the drum stool. leonard bernstein's score was hard. and it was jazzy. at the time most of britain's jazz drummers wouldn't do because they simply couldn't read music well enough. the classical percussionists, though flawless readers, also had an irredeemable failing. these "straight" musicians, as the jazz world calls them, just couldn't swing.
swing is at the heart of jazz. it's what makes the difference between music you can't resist tapping your feet to and a tune that leaves you unmoved. only now are scientists beginning to unravel the subtle secrets of swing. even today, many drum instruction manuals lay down a rigid formula for swing, based on alternately lengthening and shortening certain notes according to a strict ratio, says anders friberg, a physicist at the royal institute of technology in stockholm, who's also a pianist. but these rules are misleading. "if you took them literally you would never learn to swing," says friberg.
the fundamental rhythmic unit in jazz is the quarter note. when you tap your feet to the music you are marking out quarter notes-or crotchets as they are called in britain. superimposed on this basic beat are melodies. often melody lines consist of eighth notes, which last half as long on average as a quarter note.
but no one plays music exactly as it is written, just as no two people would read a passage from a book the same way. if you want to hear music played exactly as written there are thousands of midi files on the net which are direct translations of sheet music. and very tedious they are too-convincing proof that computers don't have a soul. real musicians shorten one note, lengthen another, delay a third and accent notes. it is all part of creating an individual style.
in jazz this interpretation is taken to extremes-and the way jazz musicians play their eighth notes is one of the keys to swing. faced with a row of eighth notes on a sheet of music a straight musician plays a series of more or less equal notes. a jazz musician plays the eighth notes alternately long and short. the long note coincides with the basic beat, the note clipped short is off the beat. there is a similar but less pronounced tendency to play notes long and short in folk and baroque music as well as in popular music.
many drum instruction books say that the long eighth note should be twice as long as the short one. but you simply can't lay down a rigid formula for swing, says friberg. it all depends on the tempo of the piece you are playing. although professional musicians are largely aware of these complexities-or can at least feel how to swing-inexperienced musicians may not be so lucky. friberg points out that many contemporary rock drummers may pick up bad habits because they practise keeping time by playing with drum machines, which may rely on the simplistic swing formula.
friberg measured the ratio between the long and short notes, the swing ratio, of four drummers on a series of commercial recordings. they included some of the best drummers in jazz, such as tony williams who played with miles davis on the my funny valentine album, jack dejohnette, part of keith jarrett's trio and jeff watts, who played with wynton marsalis.
friberg used a frequency analysis program to pick out the distinctive audio signal of the drummer's ride cymbal from a series of 10-second samples from the records. in modern jazz, drummers normally play a pattern of quarter notes and eighth notes on this cymbal with their right hand. he found the drummers varied their swing ratio according to the tempo of the piece. at slow tempos the long eighth notes were played extremely long and the short notes clipped so short that they were virtually sixteenth notes. but at faster tempos the eighth notes were practically even. the received wisdom of a 2 to 1 swing ratio was only true at a medium-fast tempo of about 200 quarter-note beats per minute. "the swing ratio has a more or less linear relationship with tempo," says friberg.
although this relationship between the swing ratio and tempo held true for every drummer, there were some notable stylistic differences. "tony williams, for example, has the longest swing ratios," says friberg. this is partly his style. but jazz is also a cooperative style of music-you have to fit in with those around you. "it's partly a matter of who he is playing with," says friberg.
friberg backed up his findings by creating a computer-generated version of a jazz trio playing the yardbird suite, a theme written by charlie parker. he then played the piece back to a panel of 34 people at different tempos and asked them to adjust the swing ratio. he found that the listeners also preferred larger swing ratios at slow tempos while at fast tempos the ratio was closer to 1.
the results are impressively consistent-and they also give a clue to the split-second accuracy that jazz musicians have to achieve if they are going to keep the listeners tapping their feet. at a relatively slow tempo of 120 beats per minute most listeners prefer a swing ratio somewhere between 2.3 and 2.6.
part of the reason for this relationship between the swing ratio and tempo, says friberg, may be that there is a limit to how fast musicians can play a note-and how easily listeners can distinguish individual notes. at medium tempos and above, the duration of the short eighth notes remained more or less constant at slightly under one-tenth of a second. the shortest melody notes in jazz have a similar minimum duration. friberg thinks this should set a maximum practical tempo for jazz of around 320 beats per minute, and very few jazz recordings approach this speed.
he points out that there's a limit to the speed listeners can process notes. when the tenor saxophonist john coltrane made his first solo recordings in the late 1950s jazz critics began referring to his fast succession of notes as "sheets of sound". "this is what you hear if you don't hear the individual notes," says friberg.
just as jazz musicians have a standard repertoire of tunes, so there is a similar repertoire of jokes. one has a member of the audience asking: "how late does the band play?" to which the answer is: "about half a beat behind the drummer." that joke turns out to have more than a grain of truth in it.
in his latest research, friberg went back to the same recordings and looked at the timing of soloists, such as miles davis, to see if they used the same swing ratios as the drummers. he found that the soloists' swing ratios also dropped as the tempo increased. more surprising was the fact that the drummer always played larger swing ratios than the soloist they were playing with. even at slow tempos soloists rarely had swing ratios greater than 2 to 1.
the difference helps to explain why a soloist can seem to be so laid back on a particularly toe-tapping number. when playing a note that nominally coincides with the basic quarter-note beat, the soloist hangs back slightly. "the delay can be as much as 100 milliseconds at medium tempo," says friberg.
this tendency to hang behind the beat goes back to the musical ancestors of jazz. in the introduction to the 1867 book slave songs of the united states charles ware, one of the editors, observed that when they were rowing a boat, the oars laid down the basic beat for the slaves' singing. "one noticeable thing about their boat songs was that they seemed often to be sung just a trifle behind time," he said.
members of the audience synchronise with the band by tapping their feet to the basic beat. but musicians have a more subtle strategy. "if you generate a solo line with a computer and delay every note relative to the cymbal it sounds awful," says friberg. "the funny thing," he adds, "is that there is a distinctive pattern that most musicians are not aware of. they synchronise on the short eighth note."
he says that this off-the-beat synchronisation of the soloist and the rhythm section is crucial in keeping the band from falling apart. effectively the musicians synchronise their internal clocks every few beats throughout the piece. when the off-the-beat notes are synchronised, says friberg, "you often don't realise the soloist is lagging".

how the written and played music differ  

so how did the producers of west side story resolve their drumming dilemma? even after 42 years musicians still tell the story. at the time britain's best jazz drummer was phil seaman, who was a good reader. but he had a problem. or to be precise, two problems. one was alcohol and the other heroin. but after some dithering, the producers gave him the job. all went well until one matinee, when the regular conductor took the day off.
seaman had a habit, half-affected, half-genuine, of appearing to doze when he wasn't playing-and during one pause in the music, his head began to nod. fearing that he had dropped off and wary of his reputation, the conductor gestured frantically to the bass player to wake the dozing drummer. the bass player reached across and prodded seaman with his bow. startled, seaman stood up and fell backwards over his drum stool, straight into the chinese gong-which reverberated around the theatre and stopped the show.
seaman stood up, cleared his throat, and announced: "ladies and gentlemen, dinner is served." the management promptly sacked him.
anyone care to comment on horace silver's playing? i'm listeming to night at birdland w/art blakey. it seems like he plays metronome perfect, square, straight as an arrow eighth notes, but it still swings like a mofo! his left hand seems to always play on the off beat, creating this constant "rolling" effect. it freaks me out, some times i hear notes "ghosted" into his playing that i'm not sure he's actually playing, i just come to expect accents in certain places, and i start to hear those accents if he plays them or not.
there's a slow blues number at the end of the cd version i have where the whole band is swinging hard, silver included, but it's definately more of a 12/8 feel
i'm going to listen to that recording jwv76. the way i was taught was that straight eights, when properly accented, swings. and dragging the line also causes it to swing. i had a great teacher on this and some of the things he told me was that the difference between us and the masters was their absolute understanding of time. when we worked it out, it changed my outlook because swing isn't only about the triplet feel.
that's right, a subtle, medium or not so subtle accent of the "ands" in straight eghts help them swing. the louder the accent the bumpier or greasier it gets.
glad you agree jazz+. i already posted that article that says this as well. some of this is a little bit of contrast between the traditional type of playing and what is being taught in school now as a more contemporary swing style (straigher eights). maybe that's where much of the difference lies. i hear everyone say "swing eights" and i keep repeating "straight eights" and no one is reading that.

looking at how i play, i probably play pretty straight past 110 bpm or so. wynton will swing it hard to some high speed like 180 (just a guess).
bud powell had a nice swing too.
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