Swing (rhythm)

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The swing ( Engl. ;. Dt swing) is a flowing, "swinging" rhythm , especially in the jazz is used. This rhythm is one of the most essential elements of most genres of jazz. He finds himself falling but also in other types of music, such as the the country belonging to Western Swing .

Older explanations

Typical pattern in swing rhythm with an emphasis on the backbeat

European jazz research has been particularly concerned with explaining the swing phenomenon .

Sensorimotor tension

As early as 1948, the Swiss musicologist Jan Slawe tried to explain swing as a "rhythmic conflict formation" (tension) between the regularity of the rhythm and its break-through, between fundamental rhythm and melody rhythm, between overlapping rhythms ("binary" vs. "ternary rhythms" or Polyrhythmics ) and between the speech tone accents of free recitation and the (melodically determined) rhythm of the accompaniment. "The experience of swing is of a sensorimotor nature and is therefore more genuine, more natural and upright than any other experience of an intellectual nature." The resulting sensual "relationship determines the difference in the experience of European and jazz music."

African heritage

In his classical studies in 1958 and 1961, the ethnomusicologist Alfons M. Dauer attributed swing to its origins in African music . He mentions the relationship between beat and offbeat as the central moment for the development of swing , i.e. the emphasis on beats between the beats of the basic pulse (on the counting time “and”), which in the note example are the unstressed eighth notes. According to the duration, the beat is an undivided, even sequence of impulses of equal spacing, which can either be perceived acoustically or only felt. The offbeat emerges from this static beat, which creates a tangible inner tension that calls for a “relaxing balance”.

Not dissimilar to Slawe, duration also takes on a form of rhythmic tension, which he relates to a multilayered sense of rhythm that is rooted in African music, in which the beat already represents a lively layer.

Emphasis on the pace

In 1970 Joe Viera expanded the previous attempts at explanation by explaining swing as a tempo phenomenon with the help of the model of " acceleration accents " : over a constant basic rhythm, slightly shifted tones give the impression of acceleration. The acceleration accents are only slightly (so by no means an eighth) before the beat; In this way, even a single melody line can "swing" (for example with a walking bass ). He also pointed out that the type of swing varies greatly - depending on the tempo of the piece, but also individually from musician to musician and between different jazz styles.

With this, Viera overcomes the ahistorical explanations that existed both in Slavs and in permanence and takes into account that "swinging" does not mean the same thing in all periods of the " history of jazz ".

Anatomy of the swing

In his study of the same name from 1986, Carlo Bohländer sees the cause of swing primarily in a superimposition of the European clock period structure with the “African multibeat feeling.” According to Bohländer, this multibeat feeling arises from the superimposition or undermining of the quarter beat, which is dominant in jazz, by higher-order beat groups (Eighth beat, sixteenth beat). This irregular accentuation, which arises within this multilayered system, combined with the symmetrical light / heavy order of the European clock system, creates the prerequisite for a "swing favor".

As revealing as the (quite complex) analysis is in detail, Bohländer's musicological Eurocentrism is problematic , with which he does not (like Viera) succeed in illuminating the fine, microrhythmic nuances.


Ekkehard Jost summarizes the following explanation for swing :

  • Swing is based on the formation of tension between at least two rhythmic layers, which do not necessarily have to be acoustically perceptible at the same time. B. is only available as a felt fundamental rhythm (beat).
  • The tension build-up is based on offbeat accentuations, which can arise on the one hand at the level of a macro offbeat (e.g. “earlier eighth notes”) and on the other hand at the level of micro offbeats (impression of minimal tempo changes, swinging).
  • The tension formation is based on polyrhythmic overlays, as they can occur especially in a "ternary eighth phrasing".
  • Microstructural nuances in the execution of the named design elements are influenced by factors of articulation, accentuation and speed. They are also influenced by the style of individual genres and the individuality of the interpreters: The swing feeling in swing is different than in bebop ; John Coltrane also swings differently than Sonny Rollins .
  • This means that there is not a single swing , “but rather an infinitely large number of possible ways of swinging within the framework of the feature constellations listed.” Consequently, not only one of the swing theories listed above can be correct, and so the problem of is not surprising Jazz authors like Joachim-Ernst Berendt said that swing “cannot be put into words”.

Generation and Effect

In order to create the “swing” impression, a rhythm group , for example a pizzicato plucking double bass player , beating rhythm guitarist or the drummer, has to provide a beat that is as precise as possible . The other part is then taken over by the solo musician instrumentally or vocal, he “pulls” a slower rhythm with premature syncopation or “brakes” with delayed syncopation, while the rhythm section continues to beat inexorably and precisely like clockwork or metronome . But both parts play at the same speed , not faster or slower. In orchestral pieces, when the musicians play the melody according to notes and all instrumentalists in a wind section are forced to start and play exactly at the same time, only the rhythm section can create the swing by mostly "braking" ( anticipated bass ) or, more rarely, "driving". The trick with a big band is that the melody group has to maintain its own rhythm and not lean on the rhythm pattern of the rhythm group. The superposition of the rhythms results in a kind of elongated beating , which is perceived as "swinging" or "eggs" in a manner comparable to binaural beats , such as the non-circular swing that you need to hold a hula hoop on your body.

The draw "Drive" over the exact rhythm guitarist for example, is clearly visible at Django Reinhardt in gypsy jazz , varied syncopated Louis Armstrong when he Mack The Knife interpreted and alternately and used before the beat, even more striking syncopated before and after the beat Walking Bass, for example, Vic Dana in I Will Wait for You . In the Moonlight Serenade by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the precisely accentuating, but gradually hesitating, striking double bass “brakes” the precisely timed melody and the recording slowly begins to “swing” (see also Groove ).

Drummers practiced in it accentuate the beat exactly with one hand ( tight = tight or straight = straight) and with the other hand laid back (cautious, look-up) or in front (forward, suggestion), which can also create a swing effect . The bassist orients himself to the drummer and adjusts to the second step, or the drummer optically orientates himself to when the bassist plucks (and the sound of the bass does not sound until the string is left out).

If an (inexperienced) soloist sings or plays exactly to the rhythm, then experienced jazz musicians of the rhythm instruments, in jazz usually the bassist or the drummer, "automatically" take on the task of braking or pulling so that the dynamic interaction creates the "swing". Therefore musicians and musicologists also discussed rhythmic fluctuations as a characteristic of swing. For example, soloists occasionally play noticeably according to the beat for a short time, which is called laid-back in technical jargon. Some musicologists were of the opinion that jazz only swings thanks to such microtiming deviations , small deviations in timing (for example between the different instruments).

Solo musicians who play a melody or accompanying part often tap the beat given by the rhythm group with their foot; this is not used to keep the beat exactly, but to play syncopated against this beat, while musicians playing in the group try to keep their beat that is "disturbed" by the rhythm section.

Similar design means

Forerunners of jazz, such as ragtime and boogie-woogie music played on the piano , also have the characteristic that the accompaniment (left hand) stays strictly in time, while the right hand interprets the melody with syncope with a time delay (with the time-delayed playing including accompaniment is more difficult for the individual musician to play than if several musicians share this task).

Forerunners in European classical music were rubato , a musical form of expression in which the melody part leads or lags, while the accompaniment stays strictly in time, so that the melody and accompaniment do not sound synchronously for a while, as do agogic , the delicate changes in tempo in solo play or Solo singing, which, together with the dynamics and phrasing , can make a musical interpretation individually unique (these stylistic devices can be recognized, for example, in the "Viennese" delays, expansions and, for sensitive dancers, rousing accelerations in the interpretation of a Viennese waltz by primarily Austrian orchestras, during a march or Cancan is played meticulously arranged without tempo changes).

Similar design elements are also used in new music , such as Igor Stravinsky , especially in some tangos . The clearest historical model are the “ Notes inégales ” in French baroque music , which are also played unevenly .

Musical notation

In order to simplify the musical notation, “Swing” or “Medium Swing” is often given as the tempo, often with the additional graphic information that two eighth notes should not be interpreted as a duo as usual, but triplet, with a quasi “delayed” second eighth note . As alternative spelling Although a continuous would be 12 / 8 -Stroke, or about continuously recorded triplets in four-four time possible, but in practice rather uncommon.

The term "straight" is usually written over sections in which the eighth notes are to be played evenly.

See also


Web links

Individual notes

  1. In some jazz books, when the word is used in relation to the rhythmic event, swing is written in lower case in German to distinguish between epoch and dance styles
  2. ^ Jan Slawe Introduction to Jazz Music , Basel 1948
  3. a b c d e Ekkehard Jost Swing. In: Reclams Jazzlexikon
  4. Alfons Duration The Jazz Kassel 1958 and Jazz, the Magical Music: A Guide to Jazz Bremen 1961
  5. ^ Joe Viera Basics of Jazz Rhythmics Vienna 1970
  6. Joachim E. Berendt The Great Jazz Book Frankfurt a. M. 1982, p. 206
  7. ↑ In 2019, a team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization led by Theo Geisel and psychologists from the University of Göttingen empirically investigated the role that microtiming plays in the perception of swing. Microtiming deviations are what experts call tiny deviations from an exact rhythm. With the help of jazz recordings, the microtiming deviations of which were partially manipulated in a targeted manner and evaluated in an online study by 160 professional and amateur musicians, it became clear that the temporal micro-deviations do not play an essential role in the swing feeling. See Swing in the Laboratory: The role of temporal fluctuations in the swing feeling in the Jazz Max Planck Society 2020