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How much swing are you guys using?

Discussion in 'Production' started by TomLewis, Feb 1, 2016.

  1. TomLewis

    TomLewis Active Member

    Oct 30, 2015
    I have recently consciously begun to understand swing. I was doing it naturally, but now I am trying to get it into my recordings, and you have to have an intellectual understanding to do that, along with the emotional understanding, at least in a MIDI track. A great drummer like Buddy Miles shines because he does this unconsciously, but I have to be calculated about it to make it work in MIDI, I guess.

    Understand, I am not referring to triplet swing, or swing jazz techniques; those are a different animal. The word 'swing' connotes 'old-timey' to anyone under 40. This is not that.

    To get this right it seems to be that all of the even 16th notes in 4/4-16, should be delayed just a bit, while all of the odd 16th notes, as well as the whole, 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8s, should be kept directly on the beat. The even 16ths, delayed a tiny amount, pull the beat, allowing the other notes to push the groove back on to the beat.

    So you get this dynamic tension. It's like the even 16ths are coloring outside the lines, and this underlines the authority of the down beats, making them seem more interesting as they consistently redefine where the beat is "supposed" to be (it's also a little like my mother constantly telling me I'm late for dinner).

    It's subtle, but effective. At 120 BPM we are talking about delaying those even 16th notes by about 10 milliseconds referenced to the other notes, which isn't much, but still enough to put a groove on something.

    We can't even distinguish two events that happen closer together than 20 ms apart (Haas Effect), but even a subtle delay like this is still powerful.

    I went back and redid all my stuff with this swing element, and it all just really came alive. Just enough works; delay the even 16ths too much and it starts to sound too gallopy.

    Playing loose or sloppy can accidentally add a swing element, but it can just as easily destroy the groove. If you swing just the correct notes properly, it adds excitement and energy, but if you just miss the timing a little bit by accident it can just as easily let the air right out of the balloon, and the energy drops. So while I understand the value of humanization, swing seems to need to be precise and somewhat calculated to work properly.

    But I would like your thoughts on this.

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