Do your 1/8th notes betray your background when reading?

Discussion in 'Tablature and Notation [BG]' started by SteveCS, Apr 19, 2024.

  1. Straight

    60 vote(s)
  2. Swing

    11 vote(s)
  3. Carrots

    23 vote(s)
  1. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Embracing the principle of "Use it Or Lose It", I try to sight-read something every day, however small. It might be a line of Bach, a Walking line, a rhythm study or a specific sight-reading exercise or some other random thing, preferrably that I don't already know and have not seen before. Sometimes the genre/style is obvious but often, with exercises, it isn't. My musical background is classical and involved a lot of formal training and sight-singing from a very early age - my first instinct, unless directed otherwise, is to play 1/8th notes 'straight'. I know other people who's background is jazz and their first instinct when sight-reading 1/8th notes is to play them with a swing/shuffle feel. What is your first instinct when faced with 1/8th notes in an unknown score - straight or swing? And does this instinct reflect your 'background'?
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  2. In terms of how you interpret written music... YOU JUST GOTTA KNOW!
    Understanding the style key, the period of the music is key to interpretation. It comes with experience and only after experience becomes innate.

    I've been fortunate. As a retired trumpet player, I've played in Symphony Orchestras, Big Band, Musical Theater, Opera, Concert Bands (professional and community), Brass Band, Brass Quintet; pretty much everything except fusion jazz because I can't improvise to save my life :(. Guitar and bass would add 60's rock, musical theater and worship groups. Playing in acoustic ensembles of various genres can teach us a lot.

    It's important to have the knowledge and experience because written music is only skeletal representation of what the sound is. Sometimes it's helpful to know what the tune sounds like listening to others. We not only copycat the interpretations of songs we know, but as bass players we try to copycat the sounds as well. But again, when you see a piece of music if you understand the style the interpretation is most of the way there.
  3. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Staight 8ths. Unless otherwise indicated or if you play a jazz or blues piece.
  4. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Totally agree, and I've also been at it a long time. But take something like your excerpt in the other thread: with absolutely no prior knowledge and presented with it as a sight-reading exercise. At first sight and without thinking, how would you go at it?
  5. MuseChaser


    Sep 17, 2023
    Central NYS
    Interesting question. My take on it is that one can usually tell by looking at the lines whether or not the harmonic vocabulary inherent in the notes is taken from a jazz style, latin style, or classical literature, and that's what informs my decisions as to how to play them. I do intentionally practice a lot of Bach's works with a swing feel, just for fun and because some of his lines actually transfer pretty well to techniques and melodies that are useful when improvising jazz.
  6. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I learned to read eight notes while playing in a salsa band. So my instinct is to follow the clave. Practically speaking, that means I really, really want to emphasize the “and“ of 2

    in all honesty, I just fall on my stylistic understanding of the piece. if there are no clear written indicators, I just go by how the piece strikes my ears. If it sounds a little blue or jazzy, I’m gonna start swinging.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2024
    ElMon, groovepump, JRA and 1 other person like this.
  7. Wisebass


    Jan 12, 2017
    Lost in Space
    Galloping with a two feel?

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    I guess I listen too much metal and jazz? :laugh:


    thx for the "carrots" option!
  8. BtaylorTheRogue


    Nov 14, 2016
    The music will tell me when to deviate from the instructions-as-written. And as written (just the notes, not including written direction or feel), 1s/halves/4ths/8ths/16ths/32nds/everything is straight.
  9. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    in practice, i'm pretty sure i'd deliver the right 8th-note feel, but: without direction/instruction to the contrary, or more importantly, context, and to goose the thing along = i might try a swing feel anyway...if for no other reason: grins. :D

    that's how i voted, "swing."
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  10. JazznFunk


    Mar 26, 2000
    Asheville, NC
    My background is mostly jazz/blues/swing/country, which (depending on sub-genre and specifics) leans on swing 8ths a lot. With no other information, and no percussive/rhythmic style reference, i.e. I sit down with a metronome to play through something, I tend to swing things when it's just me. If I'm sight-reading in context with other musicians, I play what is suggested by everything else around me. I was always taught to 'make the metronome swing', and I practice a lot with the metronome set to emphasize 2 and 4 so drive the swing emphasis home. It stuck with me I guess.
    JRA and SteveCS like this.
  11. Esteban Garcia

    Esteban Garcia bassist, arranger, aelurophile, ਵਿਦਿਆਰਥੀ Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018
    Portland, OR
    If the chart is a jazz standard or marked "swing" I swing. Otherwise I play it straight. My background is all over the map.
    SteveCS likes this.
  12. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Yes, I do the same :) It can be fun, very revealing and can get you tied up in some proper knots if you lose focus. With general sight-reading exercises I often try them both ways but almost invariably do them 'straight' first - it soon becomes obvious if the intent was to swing.
    MuseChaser likes this.
  13. JazznFunk


    Mar 26, 2000
    Asheville, NC
    I had a teacher who had me do this a lot. Take a classical exercise and play it swing - then go back and play it straight!
    SteveCS likes this.
  14. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Context is everything! Play it straight in a jazz trio and you'll get a bit of "Stink-Eye": Swing it in the orchestra and you get 100+ players all gunning for you, many of them "tooled up" with some pretty hefty lumps of metal!!
  15. LowendG


    Jul 30, 2013
    Because I suck at reading and I can barely hang on, I play everything with the "falling down the stairs waaay behind the beat" J Dilla feel!:D.
  16. OptimalOptimus


    Jan 4, 2019
    Straight unless stated otherwise
    mikewalker and Les Fret like this.
  17. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
  18. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Austin, TX
    It depends on what the music is. If it's jazz, I'd be more inclined to swing it than if it's Bach.
    Les Fret likes this.
  19. groovepump


    Aug 3, 2020
    Wisebass likes this.
  20. darwin-bass


    Mar 29, 2013
    Salem OR
    I don’t read. Problem solved.

    If I did read, I would play straight unless otherwise indicated.
    lermgalieu likes this.