It Don't Mean a Thing...

It Don't Mean a Thing...

Author: Rogelio Garibay

2.0 Creative Expression

9-12.2.4 Perform on an instrument a repertoire of instrumental literature representing various genres, styles, and cultures with expression, technical accuracy, tone quality, and articulation, by oneself and in ensembles.

The ability to swing will be the most important step young musicians take toward understanding jazz. There are a number of essential tasks that help teach the swing concept. These tasks include:

  • Listening to professional jazz recordings
  • Identify steady beat or time 
  • Understand swing eighth-note concept
  • Understand proper jazz articulation. 

The students will instructional videos on how the swing eighth-note concept and read  notated examples of what that looks like. 

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Recognizing the swing eighth notes in jazz is the most critical step toward realizing an authentic jazz style. 

  • A line of eighth notes in a swing style is played with a triplet subdivision - with lengths approximating the 12/8 feel. In other words, two eighth notes are played with the first note longer than the second. 

Example 1: Straight Eighth-Note

Example 2: Swing Eighth-Notes



Source: Dunscomb, J. Richard., and Willie Hill. Jazz Pedagogy: The Jazz Educator's Handbook and Resource Guide. Miami, FL: Warner Bros. Publications, 2002. Print.

How to swing?

Listen and take note of the suggestions throughout the video.
- Listen the first time through.
- Listen and play along during a second view.
- Make note of the emphasis to play in a "triplet feel" to achieve a "swing" feel.

Source: "How to Play Swing 8th Notes- Ralph Saxophone and Reed Product Specialist." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.

Count Basie - One O'Clock Jump

Here's a swingin' tune for your study and pleasure.
- Listen and make note of how the swing eighth-note sounds fluid and not forced.
- Smooth eighth-notes are the goal.

Source: "One O'Clock Jump - Count Basie (1943)." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.

More than one way to swing?!

Now that you have attained a basic understanding of the swing eighth-note concept, it is important that you understand that there is no one correct way to swing. There are basic fundamental rules and a "feel" to what swing should sound like. It is important to be aware of what different artists have done in the past and it is helpful to our growth as jazz to know their differences in "swing" interpretation. Here is a webpage that lists and discusses various artists and the way the approach the concept of swing in their playing.