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Old 08-20-2013, 03:58 AM
rrayner rrayner is offline
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 722
Default Swing Feel

I love music. My passion is Big Band Jazz/Swing. One of the problems I have with all of the notation programs I have tried is that it is difficult to notate a phrase that truly swings. Straight eighth notes are too pure; dotted eighths/sixteenth notes are too herky-jerky (a lot of early swing music was written this way); and quarter/eighth note triplets, although closer to swing while being a little more cluttered for reading, still don't quite match up to the way a human plays swing. I truly don't know if that will ever be achieved in computer-generated music. Arrangers/bands that want to play a piece in swing style simply notate the subject phrases in straight eighth notes, and tell the musicians, "Swing it!".

It should be noted that "swing feel" is not restricted to jazz music. If you listen closely to any number of popular songs, you can hear the swing feel I am talking about -- they are not singing/playing straight eighth notes, and there is a lot of syncopation for offbeat notes -- a whole lot of swingin' goin' on.

Wanting my music to sound a little more human, I have tried tweaking durations and attack points in an attempt to get closer to the sound I want. The attached sample is a jazz/swing phrase notated in five different ways: 1) straight eighth notes; 2) dotted eighth/sixteenth notes; 3) quarter/eighth note triplets; and 4) my attempt at capturing a feel closer to real swing. Segment 5 is identical to Segment 4, but I have "smoothed out" each eighth note of the pairs by increasing their duration +7 -- see Steps 2 and 3 below. I am afraid this manipulation still falls short, but I like the sound of it better than the alternatives. It is additional work, however.

A little basic instruction first -- Notation Software uses a value of 480 ticks (units of time) per quarter note. You can see these units by using the Notation Software Piano Roll feature from the Task Ribbon. Straight eighth note pairs are each 233 ticks, with 7 ticks of no sound (release) after each note for separation (233+7+233+7=480 ticks). Dotted eighth/sixteenth pairs have the following pattern: 345+15+113+7=480 ticks. The truest, easiest to notate swing feel is the quarter/eighth note triplet pairs which have the following pattern: 309+11+153+7=480.

Note: If you are making the following types of changes in Piano Roll, make sure you are in "ep" mode, which modifies only the "as performed" attacks and durations. You can either type "ep" or click the third icon from the left in Piano Roll.

Take a look at the attached .not file to see the five examples of the different treatments of a sample phrase. What I have done in the fourth iteration of the phrase (Swing Feel) is the following:

1) one at a time, select all of the offbeat eighth notes and type a+60 and press Enter -- this will move the attack for these notes 60 ticks to the right and decrease the duration of these notes by 60 ticks from 233 ticks to 173 ticks -- also, if you want to smooth out the articulation of the phrase, type d+7 at this point to lengthen the second note of the pair to 180 ticks -- see Segment 5

2) one at a time, select all of the eighth notes that are on the beat and type d+60 and press Enter -- this will increase the duration of these eighth notes from 233 ticks to 293 ticks -- also, if you are smoothing out the articulation of the phrase, as in Step 1 above, type d+7 at this point to lengthen the first note of the pair to 300 ticks -- see Segment 5

3) one at a time, select all of the offbeat eighth notes that are either at the end of a phrase or a standalone note with nothing following it (measures 19 & 20 -- a swing musician would "fatten" these notes to give them more prominence) -- type d+107 and press Enter -- this will lengthen each of these notes to 280 ticks (173+107=280 ticks -- a nice "fat" sound)

Note: If you are making the changes to multiple parts, you can select multiple notes in several parts at the same time, as long as each of the selected notes is one you want to change.

These adjustments are arbitrary on my part. At the moment, what I hear is more to my liking than the quarter/eighth note triplet feel, which I feel sounds too mechanical. Of course, my adjustments are also mechanical -- each eighth note pair is adjusted the same way. But, it is a matter of personal choice. As time goes by, I may change my mind and think that I should adjust by 55 ticks or 65 ticks, or some other variation. This choice is, of course, subjective. If I truly wanted to spend the time, varying each eighth note pair a little differently would make it sound much more human, but this will do for me at this time.

To see this adjustment implemented, see my recent Puttin’ on the Ritz.

It uses the a+60 and d+60 I mentioned above. I hope this little discourse is of benefit to someone. I know I'm a lot happier with the sound I get using this technique.

Ralph R. Rayner
Attached Files
File Type: not Swing Sample.not (21.9 KB, 18 views)

Last edited by rrayner; 09-01-2017 at 12:53 PM. Reason: Added additional instructions
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