# How are swung 16th notes played?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by AndyMania, Jul 28, 2012.

1. ### AndyMania

Jan 3, 2010
Just curious: How are swung 16th notes supposed to sound? I know swung 8th notes are equal to the first and last note of a triplet, so does that mean 4 16th notes are equal to one triplet plus 1 quarter note?

-Andy

2. ### Fergie Fulton

Nov 22, 2008
Braintree
Retrovibe Artist rota
Not sure if I understand your application.
But I have seen dotted 8th and 16th notes used which looks right, but would in fact be a 3.1 ratio not a 2.1 ratio

I see it in ratios,so I use a 2:1 ratio for beat subdivision which in effect is two thirds plus one third, so it could be taken that swung 16ths are just swung 8ths but twice as fast, so that may be a case of just bad notation, after all tempo is everything (with the time sig) as to the relationship.

But the use of dotted 16ths with the 8ths has a 3:1 ratio due to the use of the dotted note.
So for me there is no rooms to swing..as I feel it, but I may be wrong and this may be a notation thing on the correct way to write it rather than play it.

To play it correct, for me,it would be 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/4 + 1/8 played as a triplet, so the ratio of the 1/4 note and 1/8 note is back to a 2.1 ratio.
So for me I feel a true 16th note swing is just an 8th swing played at twice the tempo.

But the feel would be lost....just not enough time for the ratio of 2/3rds and a 1/3rd to be appreciated and give me the time and space to swing.

I have just tried it and I fell into like a fast shuffle once I up the tempo.

So of it is a question of notation I also would like to hear from those way more qualified than me about the correct way, but as a player if I saw the 16th/8th dotted on a score I would question its intention, but if I saw the 1/4 and 8ths grouped as triplets I would swing it....

Subscribed to as I feel I may learn a few things from this.

3. ### azureblue

Jan 29, 2008
Winston Salem, NC
just the way Count Basie's band plays them. Or Art Blakey. Etc.

4. ### Alvaro Martín Gómez A.TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

That's how I understand them.

5. ### mambo4

Jun 9, 2006
Dallas
In case the OP is asking about 16ths in the context of an 8th note swing piece:
If I were looking at a standard 8th note swing chart that had a few 16th note figures in it, I'd not over analyze it, just play them like 16th notes in a way that fits with the feel of the phrase.

The formulaic 'swing 8ths = first and last notes of a triplet' is just an approximation. How much 'swing' you put in varies with tempo and interpretation.

6. ### AndyMania

Jan 3, 2010
Mambo,

But since the eights are compressed a bit in a swing feel, that would mean that the 16ths would be more compressed making the distance from the "ah" to the next beat even larger right?

If a swung 8th is equal to the first and last notes of a triplet, then 4 16th notes would be a full triplet plus 1 quarter note no?

7. ### GeoffT

Aug 1, 2011
Michigan
No.

In X/4 time (where X could be any number) you would have:

1 quarter note = 1 beat
3 - 8th note triplets = 1 beat
2 - swing 8ths = 1 beat
4 - 16th notes = 1 beat
Swing 16ths would be as Alvaro showed above. Also 4 swing 16ths = 1 beat

9. ### kr0n

Feb 4, 2009
With feel. Counting sucks.

I don't know, I just feel after knowing it's there and you have to feel it.

10. ### AndyMania

Jan 3, 2010
Ahhhh......ok Geoff and Alvaro. I get it. Thanks.

11. ### AndyMania

Jan 3, 2010
So its a group of 6 but playing only the 1,3,4 and 6

12. ### bass_study

Apr 17, 2012
In swing jazz, I think most players just play 16th notes straight. I think after 120 bpm, 16 notes triplets are almost not noticeable.

But there are really some neo soul or funk music that swung. Those are 16th triplet. It is 2 times faster than normal triplet. They are usually slower.

13. ### mambo4

Jun 9, 2006
Dallas
I do not believe this to be correct, if the context is an 8th note swing piece. And it seems like over thinking.

Playing with a swing feel is not about mathematically slicing up the subdivisions into triplets instead of duplets. It's about rhythmically emphasizing the next downbeat by moving the preceding note closer to the upcoming downbeat. The last 16ths note already comes suffciciently close to the next downbeat to accomplish this effect, w/out any mathematical conversion of the preceding 16 ths.

Swing the 8th notes, play 16ths as written, interpret accordingly.

Now if you have an explicitly swung 16 note pice that may be a different case.

14. ### FretlessMainly

Nov 17, 2010
This. And for the most part, it would be written as quarter notes or eighth notes at an up tempo. Listen to A Foggy Day on the Red Garland Trio's A Garland of Red. They swing the ever-livin' piss out of it and Paul Chambers and Art Taylor are playing dead even-time. Chambers syncopates one note: the and of 1 on the turnaround.

So, I know what the OP is asking, but in terms of terminology, I think of swing as even notes from the perspective of a rhythm section.

15. ### Groove Master

Apr 22, 2011
Montreal
Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
Your 2nd question is a little bit off and I,m sure some people might have told you about the first and 3rd triplet notes been equal is wrong. If you mean that you play the 1st and 3rd notes of a triplet then it is right but they are not equal. Just a bad term i guess from your question.

When you play 16th notes swing, it is the same kind of thing as if you divide the 4 16th notes into 6 notes (sextuplet) into 2 groups of 3 notes just like Alvaro has mentioned in post #4. You can even tap your foot in 8th notes and you'll get the same feel as a swing feel with 8th notes but having the tempo twice as fast.

The fun part with 16th notes swing and its application is the % of swing feel you can apply to it, kind of the shuffle swing you can get in different kinds of swing found in jazz and blues. An even swing feel is rated in most softwares and hardwares at 66%. But you can lower or increase the distance slightly between the 2 swung notes to have a different feel.

I have devoted a whole chapter on this very crucial aspect in my book Groove 101 where I have written and played exercises and grooves ranging from 50% (no swing) to 73% of swing level. Pretty awesome and enlightening I would say. you can check out a sample of swung 16th from the book with demo 4.21 at bassbooks.com

Hope this helps

16. ### guitarist09

Jul 23, 2012
I'm a hard time with swung 16th notes too. Good thing I found this thread!

Thanks for sharing you thoughts guy

17. ### BassyBillThe smooth moderator...Gold Supporting Member

Mar 12, 2005
West Midlands UK
At a slow tempo, swung 16ths definitely give the impression of a beat being divided into 6 rather than 4. Here's one of the better known examples. Listen to Bernard Purdie's hi-hat and count the tempo as 64 bpm (with the snare hits falling on 2 and 4).

Of course, if you call the tempo 128 bpm with the snare hits falling on 3, those swung 16ths become swung 8ths anyway. I'd probably write it at the slower tempo if I was doing a chart, though, because I think that would imply a feel closer to what I'd be after from the musicians.

Some arrangers I know would actually write this in 12/8. I'm not one of them.

Aug 22, 2011
QFT

19. ### HaVIC5

Aug 22, 2003
Brooklyn, NYC
This is true, but the importance here is CONTEXT. If you're doing a funky little groove thing, then yes, all of these ideas regarding swung sixteenth notes hold true.

However, it's important to distinguish "swung sixteenths" to "sixteenths in swing music." Stylistically, in all swung eighth note music, sixteenths are played straight. This mainly has to do with the fact that the note durations are a lot closer, and any gradient within those note durations gives the feeling of being very herky jerky (unless for a very specific "double time" effect). Just like swung eighths straighten out at high tempos, all sixteenths are straightened out.

This is very different stylistically to all the fancy swung sixteenth funk music that everybody else is talking about.

20. ### bass_study

Apr 17, 2012
I think the same applies to those very fast bebop jazz tune. Like above 220 bpm. Players play the 8th note straight. The "and" not will be too short if it is swing...and it is just difficult to articulate.