Okay, this video is a response to YouTube user Onias who has a problem with swing rhythm, which obviously is pretty central to jazz, blues all that kind of thing, and he – at least I’m assuming you’re a he, Onias, it doesn’t say on your profile, so apologies if you’re a lady – what he described is a fairly typical problem in that Onias has had quite a lot of classical piano lessons and possibly as a result of that classical training is struggling to master the swing. That is pretty common. It’s not something I’ve experienced myself but I have heard it talked about a few times. [Plays swung rhythm] So there we have a swing rhythm. What I’m going to do in this video is talk a little bit about how we deal with swing, a little bit about what it is, how it’s sometimes misrepresented and a quick exercise to help you, hopefully, master it. One of the problems you’re going to have with swing if you’ve had classical lessons is the way it’s often represented on paper. In a lot of sheet music, swing is approximated as a dotted quaver followed by semiquaver, dotted quaver, semiquaver. So that’s eighth note, sixteenth note, eighth note, sixteenth note if you’re in the US. One of the problems with that is it’s a huge over-approximation, it’s so inaccurate because a dotted quaver is three times as long as a semi quaver so if we played that as dotted quavers and semi quavers it would actually sound something like this [Plays rhythm as dotted and semi quavers] So that’s one source of confusion and one source of problems. When people are playing these syncopated rhythms, that they’re used to playing classical syncopated rhythms, which is typically dotted note followed by a note half the length of the original. Dotted quaver, semiquaver. Some publishers try to get around that by, instead of approximating swung rhythms as a crotchet followed by a quaver tied together as a triplet, so the first note is twice the length of the second note, rather than three times the length of the second note. That’s closer, it’s much closer to a properly swung, syncopated, jazz or blues rhythm. It tends not to be used much because it’s really confusing to look at on the page, publishers don’t like doing it. Sometimes what they do is write the dotted quaver semiquaver, but at the top they add a little note saying dotted quaver, semiquaver equals crotchet plus quaver times a triplet, which isn’t really satisfactory. One of the reasons it’s not satisfactory is that swung rhythm is about much more than just the length of the note. It’s about where you put the stress on different notes as well. [Plays swung rhythm] As you can hear in there, there’s a lot of stress going on particular notes. Especially on the notes that are slightly longer that tend to get a slight extra push, which is why it’s kind of misleading to think of swung rhythm, properly swung rhythm from jazz or blues, as simply a matter of note lengths, because it’s not. If you’re struggling to get it, one of the first things you should do is think about the way you’re counting. Okay? [Plays swing rhythm] 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4. Now in classical music, in the Western European classical tradition, if you have a four beat bar, the stress in that bar naturally falls on the first and the third beat. ONE, two, THREE, four. ONE, two, THREE, four. ONE, two, THREE, four, and the same is actually sort of true in a lot of rock music and pop music. If you listen to a standard four beat played on a drumkit by a pop drummer, he will emphasize beats one and three, beat one he’ll put down his bass drum and beat three he’ll hit the snare. [Demonstrates four beat on drums] Hey, I could be a beat boxer. Anyway, so jazz and blues are unlike that because in jazz and blues the emphasis falls on the second and fourth beats of a four beat bar, which are the off-beats. Sorry if this is a bit theoretical, but it’s quite important. So instead of having ONE, two, THREE, four. ONE, two, THREE, four, you get one, TWO, three, FOUR, one, TWO, three, FOUR and having that sense of the stress on the off-beat is really important to getting your swung rhythm right. [Plays swung rhythm emphasising off-beats] Now let me see if I can do it just on the off-beat [Plays swung rhythm counting only off-beats] You see how the off-beat stress marries with the stress in the swing. One, TWO, three, FOUR, one, TWO, three, FOUR, one, TWO, three, FOUR. So often what you’re getting in the swing is a stress in the note when there’s an off-stress in the rhythm, but sometimes it marries up as well. It’s quite a complex relationship between the off-beat stress, that’s typical of jazz and blues, and the swing. So without digging down too deep into the dynamics of it, one thing you could do, Onias, to practise your swing is just a little movement like that which keeps your hand in one position. Start off counting: One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, and if you’re not quite getting it right, start to put the stress on the off-beat, the two and the four. One, TWO, three, FOUR, one, TWO, three, FOUR, one, TWO, three, FOUR, one, TWO, three, FOUR. That kind of gives it a feeling of drive, which is key to swung rhythm. You know, it should really feel like it’s driving and pushing you forward. It’s almost an industrial kind of feeling. [Plays swung rhythm] And then what you can do once you get confident with that is start to put a left hand in, and just play a simple twelve bar. [Plays twelve bar swing rhythm] Something like this. [Plays twelve bar swing rhythm] Okay, and then take from there. There are other exercises you can do, I’ve talked to Onias already and I know he’s doing some of this stuff, but if you’re struggling then try playing your scales. I hope you’re practising your scales regularly. Try playing your scales in a swung rhythm. [Plays C major scale with swung rhythm] Bit of an approximation, but anything you can do to get out of the standard classical emphasis on beats one and three, and the very straight four bar discipline that was sort of beaten into you when you were having classical lessons. I’m not making a value judgement there, I love playing classical piano, and that kind of sense of the one and three stress in a four beat bar is absolutely key to so much music from Schubert to John Phillip Sousa Marches, you know, but if you’re playing jazz and blues you have to kind of get on the off-beat. The irregular beat. So there we go. Have a go at that and see how it goes, I mean, I must confess playing a swung rhythm is one of the very, very, very few things that I’ve always been able to do fairly naturally on the piano. So because of that it’s quite hard to think about and analyse what I’m doing. So I hope that’s useful. Give it a go, give me some feedback, let me know how you get on and if it needs digging into more deeply then certainly I’m happy to do that. Okay, there we go. If this is the first time you’re watching one of my videos folks, check out my book, How to Really Play the Piano, which has got chapters on things like chords and starting to improvise using twelve bar blues and various other resources in there. Great back up if you’re enjoying the videos. £14.95 for the print edition, it’s available in North America, the UK and Europe. Or you can get the digital edition right away for £9.95 anywhere in the world. Okay? I’ll include a link on how to find that. As I say, any questions, give me a shout. Hopefully Onias, that has just pushed you a little bit further down the road to mastering this. Okay, there we go.