What Is A Swing Rhythm?

by Derick SullivanDecember 24, 2021

When most people think of swing, they imagine big band music from the 1930s and 1940s. But the truth is, swing rhythms have been around for centuries. In this post, we'll look at what swing rhythms are and how you can apply them to your music. 

A swing rhythm is when the pulse of the music is divided unequally. Certain subdivisions (typically either eighth note or sixteenth note) alternate between long and short durations. It's used in jazz, classical, and other types of music. The most common type of swing rhythms are triplets and 16th notes. Swing rhythms can be written in time or tuplets.

Swing rhythms are often confused with Swing, a Jazz music style. Swing is a jazz music style, while swing rhythm describes the regular and common base beat in most songs played on drums or pianos. It's usually, though not always, used with an improvisational feeling that makes it stand out among other pieces improvised at different times during performances by musicians improvising together using their intuition rather than strict guidelines set before them.

In a straight rhythm where you're playing 8th notes in 4/4 time (which means two notes per beat), the first note occurs on every other beat and the second one is precisely halfway between them. When it comes to 60 bpm, this results in 1 cycle per second or 120 crotchets sped up.

But in a swing rhythm, you play the first 8th note on the beat and slightly delay the second 8th note. Played at 60 bpm, it’d go as follows:

  • 1st 8th note — 0 secs
  • 2nd 8th note — 0.66 secs
  • 3rd 8th note — 1.0 secs
  • 4th 8th note — 1.66 secs and so on.

Visit our blog section to learn more about music and various kinds of rhythms.

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