Can the ability to " swing " be learned or is it mostly an innate talent ?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Kelly robinson, Oct 21, 2021.

  1. Kelly robinson

    Kelly robinson

    Dec 30, 2014
    I'm wondering whether having a " really good swing feel is something I can learn / teach myself or is a gift of talent you either have or don't have . I know I can hear it but I find it very hard to replicate . I am a serious music fan [ going back decades to seeing Jimi Hendrix , Janis Joplin , Albert King , Albert Collins , J.J. Cale etc but have never been particularly adept at actually playing despite the amount of practice time I put in . No one has ever accused me of being musically gifted for sure and I am at the point now where I wonder whether there is any hope that I can somehow get to be at least moderately competent . To me there is a " lope , for lack of a better word " to some players like Norbert Putnam that comes across really well on his work with J.J.Cale . Try as I might I can't seem to come anywhere close to that feel . Any thoughts . advice are appreciated .... Thanks , Kelly
    Roxbororob, 31HZ and Peter Torning like this.
  2. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Suspended

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Try working with a good teacher. Most musicians can swing at least to some degree.
    barrenelly, Bass4Brkfast and RocknRay like this.
  3. Malcolm35

    Malcolm35 Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2018
    Played country rhythm guitar for 25+ years and never understood Texas Swing. When the fiddle sat in it added that swing feel. But I still was on a 1-2-3-4. Reading from some jazz books seems a 2-4 count is called for. In other words swing over to 2-4.

    See if that helps.
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  4. Ampslut

    Ampslut Supporting Member

    May 15, 2017
    Swing is not a feeling of 4 it is more like 12
  5. Ampslut

    Ampslut Supporting Member

    May 15, 2017
    Think of swing not as straight 4 but as 4 sets of 3 with a 2 to 1 feel like do da do da etc.
    Joebone and Blackjac97 like this.
  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
  7. Kelly robinson

    Kelly robinson

    Dec 30, 2014
    I gather you disagree with the "12 " feel but what do you say to the original question ? I know you have a stellar reputation - just curious as to whether you think " a good swing feel " can be learned or is somewhere beyond some folks no matter how hard they try . I suppose I answered my own question to be honest LOL .... Kelly
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  8. ArdBahss


    Oct 21, 2021
    Don't compare yourself too much to others. Keep learning and have fun slappin' on da bass. You'll get there brother.
    BBQisgood, kobass, Ryno1330 and 2 others like this.
  9. Oh, I can identify with this, only with reggae. As for swing, I can do a pretty good job. But there is a big difference between me swinging and my son. He’s “got it” in big league sort of way. Of course, he’s in the Marine Corps Fleet Bands, but dang, when he 13-14 he had Ray Brown down. No joke.
  10. 12BitSlab

    12BitSlab Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2016
    Liberty Township
    Assuming that you are talking about jazz swing, I believe it can be learned. One starts by listening to as many high quality songs done in swing style as is humanly possible.

    when learning to play swing, one must be able to play the walking bass part, the melody, and how to play solos. Most - not all - of the swung eighth notes you’ll play will come in solos.

    I would start with @Ed Fuqua ’s book about Walking Bassics or seek in person lessons from a real jazz bass player. Just remember, listening is just as important if not more so than playing when is starting to learn about swing.

    I wish you good luck!
  11. Kelly robinson

    Kelly robinson

    Dec 30, 2014
    I will keep on trying for sure but accepting ones limitations seems like an appropriate path at this point . I was very good at sports as a kid and got picked early in any pick up games but with bass playing - I'm like the kid who had to show up with the ball to get asked to join in . It is what it is - i still very much enjoy hacking around but it would be nice to think there is a light somewhere at the end of this very long tunnel ! It's very hard to truly love listening to great music and find that joy doesn't translate into any sort of skill at playing it ... Kelly
  12. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I think swing can be learned. I believe listening is as important as playing, listening to everything not just the bass, and trying to play melodic parts not just bass lines. I think listening to early swing is important because later swing evolved from early swing. Listening to swing from different periods also helps, because it will quickly become apparent that there is not a single uniform "swing" that covers all time periods, tempos, players, etc.

    All music swings. I've heard classical musicians refer to subtle rhythmic effects as "swing." But outside of jazz, it's often referred to by another term: Groove, which is playing in a way that compliments the rhythmic style of the music. Just like all music swings, all music grooves. Part of developing as a bassist is learning to perceive the swing or groove in a particular musical setting, and adapting to it quickly. This is one reason for the old saying: A bassist doesn't need fast fingers, just fast ears.
  13. TyBo


    Dec 12, 2014
    I'm lucky to be someone to whom a swing feel comes easy. Don't remember learning it, it was just there. (Reggae, on the other hand ... I can kind of do it, but I really have to concentrate.)

    Aimee Nolte talks about how she learned to swing, boils it down in a way that makes sense to me. "You gotta feel the quarter note in your soul ... " Two words: Freddie Green.

  14. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    I am following this topic. I've been told I can swing pretty well, but I have no idea what that means on a technical level. I just follow the beat. Others have tried to explain it to me with numbers but I never took that onboard in terms of exactly what that means.
  15. For one entire week end, listen to nothing but Count Basie and Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Ray Brown. Basie's "Take the A train" is a good start. Listen to how the the band feels 2 and 4. and how the bass walks. Some say that learning how to play a shuffle behind the beat is the first step, but learning how to hear in triplets, as some here have pointed out, is a really good thing to be able to do. The important thing is to not play ahead of the beat, and try to drop 4 a little behind.
    Swing has to be in your heart not in your head. You have to feel it before you play it. Oh yeah, and play fat.
  16. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    It's learned by first listening to alot of swinging playing, then attempting to imitate that feel on your instrument. The trick is you need to know what it sounds like in your head before you can actually play it.
  17. Gustopher

    Gustopher Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2018
    I think it’s in you. To me, it’s more a feel than a skill. Some really proficient players I’ve known couldn’t quite “swing”… they could play anything well, but not with that “swing” feel. Always sounded too stiff. But that’s just my thoughts on it. I’m not the best player by any stretch, but I have a really solid inner rhythm feel and can swing with a beat.
  18. thunesBARROW


    Apr 12, 2010
    New York
    Transcribe and play along with the recordings/players you wish to emulate.
    Mushroo likes this.
  19. coyote1


    Mar 23, 2012
    EVERYTHING in music is learnable. For some folks it’s easier to learn than for others, but this is learnable. Listen to music that swings, learn your chord shapes and other basics, and then practice it. And practice it more.
    retslock, JRA, J_Bass and 3 others like this.
  20. Lowendtech

    Lowendtech Happily trending in my own peculiar direction. Supporting Member

    Like this?:smug:
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