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Country Blues => Weenie Campbell Main Forum => Topic started by: Johnm on December 22, 2007, 01:26:00 PM

Title: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Johnm on December 22, 2007, 01:26:00 PM
Hi all,
I've been thinking for a long time about how the character of the blues changed over time as the players' treatment of time evolved to address issues of musical fashion, new dance crazes and other related factors.  Much of what determines a music's fundamental rhythmic feel is the first subdivision of a single beat:  does the music divide the beat evenly, as in a straight eighth feel, or does the beat split unevenly, with the note falling on the beat getting two thirds of the beat and the + of the beat getting the remaining third of the beat, in a broken triplet or "swung eighth" feel?
Looking at the music of various musicians of the Pre-War generations of Country Blues musicians who recorded, you find some players who fall in the "straight eighth" camp, some players who play either straight or swung eighth notes, depending on the feel of the song being played, and probably some who worked exclusively in the "swung eight" camp, though I haven't identified any there yet.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, membership in the "straight eighth" camp is often found in older musicians, or musicians who had a strong pre-Blues element to their repertoire.  Henry Thomas, Mississippi John Hurt, and Frank Stokes, for instance, at least on the basis of the recorded evidence, never played a swung eighth note in their lives.  A factor in these musicians not swinging their eighth notes is their preference for a cut time (2/2) feel--they didn't play in a four-beats-to-the-measure feel.  I know from teaching, that in our present "Post-shuffle Era", it is really tough for some people to play straight eighth notes, but without straight eighth notes, the rhythmic feel of these players can not be achieved. 

Blind Blake played a lot of his music with straight eighths, though the tendency of many modern players (with the exception of Ari Eisinger) is to swing the eighth notes more than Blake did.  The one area of Blake's repertoire where he consistently swung his eighth notes was on his medium tempo blues, like "Black Dog Blues" or "One Time Blues", where he swings his eights from beginning to end.  Not coincidentally, all of these songs are played with a four feel, in 12/8, in which each measure has four beats, and each beat is divided into a triplet.  When Blake launches into one of his long runs, he may, in fact, play several consecutive beats in which he hits all three notes of the beat's subdivision.  More often, he is breaking up the pulse into 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +, and just swinging those eighth notes.  Blake's approach to playing time on these songs in 12/8 does not seem forward-looking, though, for it did not survive into the next generation of players.  Rather, it seems more of a relict of the Classic Blues era, and the small ensembles that backed the great female singers in that style.

Charlie Patton is a fascinating figure in this regard, as he was in so many others.  Prior to his 1934 sessions, he recorded no songs with a swung eighth feel, but the 1934 sessions produced four songs on which Charlie swung his eighth notes:  "34 Blues", "Poor Me", and "Yellow Bee" and "Mind Reader Blues", on which he backed Bertha Lee's vocals.  Charlie's treatment is more forward-looking than was Blake's, and on "Yellow Bee" and "Mind Reader Blues", in particular, he is essentially playing shuffles. 

I believe Charlie Patton's move into a swung eighth feel shows a musical indebtedness to the recordings of Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe, who were recording shuffles as early as 1929.  I think that Memphis Minnie was in many ways often on the cutting edge of what was coming next in the blues.  She was one of the eariest Country Blues player to be metrically consistent and to adhere strictly to the formal constraints of the 12-Bar Blues, with each bar consisting of 4 beats.  More to the point of this discussion, she was early in her adopting of the shuffle feel.  A quick listen to the old Blues Classic album, "Memphis Minnie, Vol. 2, Early Recordings with Kansas Joe McCoy" shows several shuffles, "New Bumble Bee", "Plymouth Rock", and "Memphis Minnie-jitis", in a program that also includes several songs with a straight eighth feel in cut time.  Minnie's shuffle feel is a far cry from Blake's 12/8 feel.  Blake's playing sounds like it could have accompanied a soft shoe dancer, whereas Minnie's feel is altogether more driving, for it is a more insistent four, landing very heavily on each beat.  It really doesn't differ substantially from shuffles as played by modern electric blues players.  If there is someone who recorded shuffles earlier than Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe, I'd like to know who it was, but absent that information, it seems Minnie must be given the credit/blame for the present day continued popularity of the shuffle in the blues.

The playing of Lonnie Johnson, especially on his slow numbers, shows an approach to playing swung eighth notes at slow tempos that has survived into present day blues playing, as has Lonnie's practice of playing time relatively simply behind his singing and then launching into florid fills in between his vocal phrases.  His signature run is a string of triplets.  Just as Minnie's playing of shuffles has survived into present-day electric blues, so has Lonnie's approach to playing slow blues.  It is essentially what B. B. King does (though B. B. stops playing altogether while singing).

Whether the ways that Blues musicians' playing of eight notes was in response to the wants and needs of dancers, or led the dancers' way, (which seems more likely in the case of innovators) once a feel had been established as the appropriate way to back the dancing people wanted to do, players who wanted to keep working needed either to honor the dancers' wishes with regard to groove or come up with something cool and catchy enough to be an acceptable substitute.  Rhythmic innovation is no more common than melodic or harmonic innovation.  There are plenty of strong players who are comfortable working in a pre-existing groove framework, but musicians like James Brown are unfortunately all too rare.

Are there other trail blazers out there in the Country Blues or people whose treatment of time worked at some odd remove from the other musicians of their era?  I'd be interested to hear other thoughts on the topic.
All best,
Johnm       
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Slack on December 22, 2007, 03:02:06 PM
Merry Christmas Johnm! 

Wow, it will take me a bit of time to absorb your post - but I can tell you that I have been thoroughly hooked on the swung eighths for a long time.   However, my initial reaction is, that I believe one should play (or listen) to straight eighths songs on occasion -- in order to appreciate the swung eight even more.    :D

And glad to see you connected the discussion to dancers -- as there is no doubt in my mind that dancers led the way.  The mob rules.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: dj on December 22, 2007, 03:46:57 PM
Quote
I've been thinking for a long time...

I like it when you think, John!   :)

All I have on this so far is a few questions.  Your earliest example of swinging eighth notes is Memphis Minnie in 1929.  Does anyone know when jazz began to swing?  What dances did people dance to swung jazz and blues?  Is there any connection?
 
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Johnm on December 22, 2007, 11:13:42 PM
Merry Christmas to you too, John D!  I also like the swung eighth note feel, but have a special fondness for the straight eighth feel as well, maybe because I particularly like pre-Blues material.  I should say, too, that when I say that Henry Thomas, John Hurt, Frank Stokes or other musicians did not swing their eighth notes, I'm not casting aspersions of any kind on their treatment of rhythm--just making a technical observation.  These were all players with tremendous rhythmic vitality and snap, who happened not to swing their eighth notes.  If you have ever heard one of their songs performed with swung eighths (John Hurt's "Richland Woman Blues" is often played this way by present-day performers) all of the crispness and snap that John Hurt brought to the song is gone, replaced with a kind of bland bounciness.

Thanks also for your good words, dj.  Actually, I didn't say that Memphis Minnie was the earliest player to swing her eighth notes, since Blake pre-dated her and tended to swing his eight notes on his medium tempo material, but Minnie is the earliest player I have noticed playing in a shuffle rhythm.  As to when Jazz players began to swing their eighth notes, I'm unfortunately too weak on early Jazz to say, but there are people who frequent the site, like Richard, who probably have a good sense of when swung eighths became something frequently encountered rather than a rarity in Jazz.  We'll see where it all goes.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: lindy on December 23, 2007, 08:25:34 AM

Seems to me that we need to add ?swing? to the ever-expanding list of slippery concepts that we like to talk about on this site. There?s that technical definition of ?the note falling on the beat getting two thirds of the beat and the + of the beat getting the remaining third of the beat,? then there?s the more generic, ?anything that makes you move your feet or body in a smooth, funky manner.?

Every time I watch the Legends of Country Blues Guitarists video with a friend, I always point out John Hurt?s shoulders while he?s playing Spike Driver?s. He?s definitely not doing the technical version of swung eights, but his body is moving according to my generic definition. That was in the 1960s; if you listen to his 1928 version, the straight-eighths feel is much more pronounced.

I am blessed by living in a city where there are a half-dozen bands that play nothing but Dixieland Jazz. In many people?s minds, the best is Dr. Michael White and the Original Liberty Jazz Band. Dr. White is a wonderful combination of a professor who has spent his career analyzing all aspects of the music, but when he?s up on stage he leaves all that analytical stuff behind and, to my ears, ?swings with a straight-eight feel.?

His banjo player strums in eighths, the drummer hits his bass drum in eighths and either his snare or cymbal in straight eighths, all while the soloists are playing riffs and slurs that would fit equally well with a straight or swung eighths rhythm section. All of us swing dancers are having a ball on the dance floor.

I feel that I?m on the verge of using a lot of words to say nothing, so let?s see if I can remember the point I wanted to make when I started this reply. I think it was to remind us all once again about that concept of ?continuum.? At some point the contemporaries of Buddy Bolden took the feel of ragtime and jazzed it up by really emphasizing the second and fourth beats. And at some point in the ensuing twenty years some musicians started messing with the technical stuff of 2/3 + 1/3 of the beat, and the rest is Louis Armstrong.

I?m reminded of the thread that JohnM started last year about how country blues didn?t go beyond a certain point in chordal complexity?I think that was the term he used, forgive me otherwise. I remember my first reaction was, ?It did, we just started calling it something else?jazz, ragtime, whatever.?

It may be the same thing with the straight-swung eighths question. A lot had to do with whether you were a guitarist working in isolation in a specific section of Mississippi or had access to a record player or some other way of hearing the music that was moving up and down the Mississippi River between New Orleans, St. Louis, and Chicago. I also think that some of the old country blues players who leaned toward straight eighths did anything but straight eighths with their singing, and the result fits the generic definition of swing.

This is fun stuff to mull over. The local non-commercial station, WWOZ (wwoz.org) does a traditional jazz program 2-3 times a week from around 9 to noon. When I have the chance to listen, I sometimes try to figure out where the swing feel that eventually morphed into the dominant rhythm of the 30s and 40s got started. I suspect that the musicians who built the bridge listened to a lot of Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, but I?ll save that for later.

Merry Christmas to all from the land of Creole Santas.

Lindy
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Richard on December 23, 2007, 11:16:18 AM
Johnm, a happy Xmas and to all.

What an excellent topic, I shall have to put my thinking cap on and see what I can find as the earliest example jazz wise!

The Atlantic gives us some different slightly music terminolgy on occasion and this is one instance - I have assumed that by swing eigths you refer to what I was taught to call "dotted quavers" as in a shuffle.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Johnm on December 23, 2007, 06:45:36 PM
Hi all,
I think if you listen to John Hurt without watching him simultaneously, Lindy, you'll find that his time in the '60s was as it was in the '20s, cut time with a straight eighth note subdivision, though he favored faster tempos as a younger man (as do pretty much all younger men).  This is certainly not to say that his music didn't move--it moved like crazy and was very danceable as is a lot of cut time music with straight eighths, but rather that it did not ever swing in the way that duple meters with an underlying triple subdivision swing.  It takes the tension between the twos and threes to get the kind of swing that a blues shuffle has. 
I think that the Ellington title "It Don't Mean  A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing" made people think that you are automatically being perjorative if you describe a piece of music as not swinging, but if you are talking about music with a straight eighth feel and subdivision of the beat, you're making a simple statement of fact.  There is plenty of highly rhythmic music, also extremely danceable, that does not swing, Bossa Nova and Samba being two prime examples.  People dance their asses off to Samba, but it does not swing, and I know some hard core American jazzers who don't care for it for that reason.
I don't equate danceability with swinging is what it amounts to, I guess.  I think there are tons of danceable feels that don't swing, including lots of wild meters that are employed in Balkan folk music, like 7/8 and 11/8.  I suspect that a lot of people use "swinging" and "danceable" interchangeably, but as a musician I don't think that cuts the mustard definitionally.
Merry Christmas to you, too, Richard, and I'll be interested to hear what you come up with from early Jazz.  Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with the note names as you described them, but if you are talking about the beat subdivision that a shuffle employs, we're saying the same thing with different terms.
All best,
Johnm     
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Rivers on December 23, 2007, 08:25:35 PM
John, I confess to not understanding the terms here. Swing is something I do, know when I'm doing it, and have no real idea of what I'm doing, beyond accenting the 2 and 4!

I'll study the examples you've given. It would be really educational for me if you could cite one or more tunes that are archetypal illustrations of each of the various terms.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Mr.OMuck on December 23, 2007, 09:43:15 PM
John, is it possible for you to go to one of Memphis Minnie's cuts on document CD volume one and give us an exact time marker as to where one of these swung eighths occurs?  "I need my hands on it" or in this case my ears if ya' know what I mean. Only if you have time an' all.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: RobBob on December 24, 2007, 06:29:31 AM
Why not look outside blues for the answer.  At the same time as the blues players you discuss, jazz was becoming more popular and was being heard via recordings and performances.  They had moved away from straight eights and were transforming the rag tradition into what became known as swing b doing it.  There is not doubt that there was an audience for both times and traditions.  It should be note that what set that Carolina boy, Earl Scruggs apart from other banjo pickers was his extensive use of swinging eights and 16ths!. He had obviously spent a lot of time listening to swing.

So  the influence of which you speak became omnipresent by the late 30's and early 40's and eventually evolved into rock and roll and later the preponderance that became known as rock.

You can see the change in Big Bill and Josh White's music too.  Lemon Jefferson had a swing in his timing when soloing against his own rhythm.

Musically the thirties and forties had to be a very exciting time.  The chunky twenties gave way to a harder, faster paced music.  All of this reflects something greater in the society and the pace of life as music filled some psychic need for the audience and the players.

Merry Christmas y'all,

RobBob
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Richard on December 24, 2007, 07:13:22 AM
This is proving harder than I thought to come up with an early jazz shuffle, there is stuff from mid\late 30s onwards but I want to find something earlier!

Johnm attached is what I was calling dotted quavers and was taught as a shuffle..... are we are on the same planet, is this what you call swing eights?
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Johnm on December 26, 2007, 12:19:06 PM
Hi all,
Thanks for your responses and I'm sorry to be slow getting back to the thread.  Thanks for your posting of the actual note values, Richard.  Now I know what you were describing earlier.  What you showed, which we in the States would describe as a dotted eighth note followed by a sixteenth note, is not really the swung eighth feel.  To represent the swung eighth feel, imagine a measure in 4/4 with four eighth note (quaver?) triplets.  Now, assume that in each of the triplets, the first two notes are tied, so that only the first and third notes of the triplets get separate attacks, and the middle note of the triplet is attached to the first note of the triplet durationally via the tie.  That is the swung eighth feel.  If you can visualize it (sorry I can't do the attachment), you can see that it does not divide the beat equally, as in a straight eighth feel, but rather has the note that falls on the beat get two thirds of the triplet, via the tied second note of the triplet, with the + of the beat falling on the third note of the triplet.  That uneven distribution of the beat is what results in the swung eighth feel.
I realize that for those of you who aren't conversant with rhythmic notation this isn't all that much help.  I am away from my record collection now, but I believe that if you have access to "Memphis Minnie-jitis Blues", Minnie plays a fill after that the first vocal phrase that starts on the + of the second measure and then goes into the third and fourth meaures a la:

   | 1 + 2 + 3 + triplet | 1 + triplet 3 + 4 + |

All of the places where the beat is simply divided into "1 + 2 + " etc., are perfect demonstrations of the swung eighth feel.  Where the triplets occur, Minnie is playing every subdivision of the beat implied by the underlying triple feel.  I hope this example works better for those of you who requested an example in a song context.  I'll try and think of another example in the context of a song that everyone might be more likely to have or to have heard.  Whoops, just thought of a song with a swung eighth feel throughout:  Rev. Davis's "Death Don't Have No Mercy".  If you can hear the time of that song in your head, you can tell that it is utterly different from the time of Henry Thomas, John Hurt or Frank Stokes.
All best,
Johnm
       
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Johnm on January 03, 2008, 11:52:47 PM
Hi all,
One musician whose treatment of musical time was as distinctive as his treatment of blues harmony and his vocal sound was Skip James.  If you listen to Skip's original recording of "Devil Got My Woman", you can hear him messing with the subdivisions of the pulse and altering his accenting as he goes in a way that very few of his contemporaries ever approached.  "Devil Got My Woman" is played with a 12/8 meter, 4 beats per measure with each beat having an underlying triplet feel.  As the beat is split, it breaks into the broken triplet, or the swung eighth feel mentioned earlier in this thread.
At the conclusion of Skip's first vocal phrase, though, he plays a fill in which he goes for a deeper subdivision of the pulse, a la:

   |  1 + 2a+a 3 + 4a+a | 1 + 2a+a 3 + 4 +|

Where Skip splits the second and fourth beats of the measure into four notes (in a vocalized version, 2 uh and uh), he is eliminating the swung eighth feel, and going for a staight up and down feel where the beat is divided into four sixteenth notes rather than the triplet characteristic of the 12/8 meter.  This movement back and fourth between the swung eighth feel that predominates throughout most of the song and the odd sound created by the elimination of the swinging subdivision of the beat contributes every bit as much to the unsettled, ominous feeling of the music as does Skip's eerie vocal tone and his unusual treatment of Blues harmony.  This is especially imaginative playing.  If you haven't listened to it for a while, check it out--Skip's time is very complex and nuanced, and he is absolutely getting what he's going for, too.
All best,
Johnm     
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: RobBob on January 04, 2008, 05:47:49 AM
About 40 years ago I to to watch Skip James play. It was a hot muggy day at a festival and his words and guitar filled the thick air.

I was most familiar with his Vanguard recordings since I was not too long out of high school and from a small town where perhaps three people knew who he was.  His timing was incredible.  He would set up a pulse and then swing the heck out of it but pulling back or easing up on the beats.  His music was like a high wire act balanced on a wire of his own making.

RobBob
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Pan on January 04, 2008, 06:03:30 AM
Here's a picture representing the swung eighth notes in standard notation.

In slower tempos the music is often written in 12/8 to avoid writing triplets constantly.

Beware, that often, for simpicitys' sake,the music is written as just standard straight eight notes, even if it is ment to be played with swung eighth notes. There really is no telling, unless you can hear the original music. Watch for words "swing", "shuffle" or a "quarter note+eighth note triplet = two eighth notes" sign in the beginning of the page.

Cheers

Pan
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Pan on January 04, 2008, 06:13:07 AM
I have Big Bill Broonzys'  "House Rent Stomp" on a french Vogue label vinyl compilation, where he, in the middle of the song which is played in swung eighth notes, goes into a double stop treble strings lick starting with sudden straight eighth notes, and ending the lick with swung eighth notes again. If memory serves he does this a couple of times, so it's premeditated, I'd guess.

Pan
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Johnm on January 04, 2008, 07:05:39 AM
Thanks very much for providing the notational example of what I've been talking about, Pan.  I think the visuals are hugely helpful.  I wish my computer skills were better, so that I would know how to post such an example.  Thanks!  And you are right, of course, that eighths that are meant to be swung are often written as though they were straight eighths.  A lot of Jazz lead sheets are written this way, with an indication to "swing eighth notes" at the top of the page.  Such a practice is an understandable short cut, I guess.  It can get pretty tough at times to try to notate rhythms scrupulously.  In a way, the more accurate the representation is, the harder it is to read.  There is certainly no substitute for hearing music.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Richard on January 04, 2008, 07:38:44 AM
I am afraid the end of Xmas and the New Year has kept me away from this, but I see Pan has just posted a good example of I was going to repond with in respect of Johnm's earlier reply to my dotted quaver question! Complicated eh!

However, in the process of looking I came up with this page... it might seem heavy going but taken in a rhythmic sense it's not quite that bad!

http://www.garciamusic.com/educator/articles/swing.feel.html
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: waxwing on January 04, 2008, 08:11:07 AM
Interesting, Richard. That guy certainly is a fine practitioner of the art of obfuscating, but I guess the gist is that, technically, in jazz at least, swung eighths do not fall directly on the "let" of "tri-ple-let" but slightly before, just not enough before to be square. Actually, while transcribing Scrapper Blackwell's Back Door Blues using Transcribe! I noticed this phenomenon. Transcribe gives a visual display of the amplitude wave and it was pretty clear to see that Scrapper's swung eighths did not fall at the 2/3 mark of the beat, but again, slightly before. And that varied somewhat throughout.

Personally, I feel that if you start out playing the swung eighths as "lets", and then allow the emotionality of the music to effect your tempo or rhythm a bit, Very slight rubatto(sp?), perhaps, you'll get the "feel" just right for you.

All for now.
John C.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: johneeeveee on January 05, 2008, 12:38:28 PM
 Hi... cool thread,
 As far as jazz goes, I believe the first guy to bring the (now) traditional swing (ding-ding-da-ding) up to the ride cymbal and really articulate it was Kenny Clarke. Word has it that he was initially fired for his style, which later became the staple of swing and BeBop.

 Peace - jv
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Johnm on January 11, 2008, 11:23:38 PM
Hi all,
One player who excelled at the swung eighth feel was Lil' Son Jackson.  All of his up-tempo blues like "Gambler's Blues" or "Roberta" employs swung eighths which he is able to communicate perfectly in his solo renditions.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Richard on January 12, 2008, 01:22:57 AM
Johneeeveee  I think I'd disagree as that basic rhythm or "time" as it is called was certainly being played quite commonly by the mid 30s on the hihat and it seems the reason it is not so much heard on the ride cymbal is because there were not any good ride cymbals! Something like a 16" would be considered huge in those days and it took untill the later 30s before larger rides were available, but even then they were not a clean sound as we now know it and more often than not when really attacked they would degenerate into overtones.

Certainly though, the 40's bop players like Max Roach, Don Lammond, Kenny Clarke et al who came along with Parker and company did indeed break away from playing time per se and that coupled with the advent of stable, larger cymbals made their contribution really stand out. 
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: lindy on January 12, 2008, 06:59:45 AM

Cootie Williams -- who played trumpet in the Ellington Orchestra -- once said, "Define swing? I'd rather tackle Einstein's theory!"

Swing is a really elusive thing, which is why I'm so fascinated by it. Country blues, swing, success in Iraq -- all things that are undefinable, except you know the first two when you hear them.

And maybe I don't hear swing in its more subtle forms. I was going to bring up Lil Son Jackson earlier, because he has such a funky sound (there's that highly technical word again, funky), but I don't hear the swing in Gambler's Blues. At least not in the version on Arhoolie with the picture of him in his garage on the cover. I hear a very strong pulse that makes me want to tap my foot, but as a dancer, I'd be more inclined to do a one-step than a double- or triple-time swing movement to it. Is there any way you can explain that recording's swing nature? Wow, define swing in a particular song, I would hate it if someone asked me that question.

Because of an interview I did with a jazz group back in the late 70s, I held on to the dogmatic position that swing cannot be notated in standard Western notation. I finally loosened my grip on that opinion in the 90s, when I heard more people talk about the dotted eighths concept. But many people I've spoken to about this topic still say that you have to write the word "swing" on the chart somewhere to really get the concept across.

Richard, give a listen to the first recording of Ellington's "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo," for me one of the first examples of swing in jazz. I'm not saying it is *the* first example, but it's in the right time period for that to happen.

Lindy
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Johnm on January 12, 2008, 07:42:53 AM
Hi Lindy,
I sense part of your confusion arises from focusing on swing in the larger sense, as in "swing dance" as opposed to the more narrow discussion implied in the title of the thread, where the question simply has to do with the division of one beat:  straight eighths or swung eighths?  If you listen to Lil' Son Jackson playing "Gamblers Blues" immediately followed by John Hurt playing "My Creole Belle, it should be clear that Jackson and Hurt are dividing the beat differently.  John Hurt is playing straight eighths and Lil' Son Jackson is swinging his.  I don't know better how to communicate the difference than by the sound of the difference.  I hope this helps.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: lindy on January 12, 2008, 08:46:47 AM

You're right, that is where I am stuck, I'm finding it hard to separate a technical description of a rhythmic device from "a feeling."

But before I stop beating this horse, here's two websites I found when I was looking around for information to support a point that I wasn't sure about in the first place:

The first is http://bebopified.blogspot.com/2007/10/jazz-101-swing.html, which I think is an example of that "swing in a larger sense" idea that you just pointed out. The writer uses western notation to give examples of how she thinks things are written versus how they are actually played in a swing environment.

The other is http://www.musedit.com/med/UserQuestions/SwingTiming.htm. These people are trying to sell a product, and I don't know how that colors their interpretation of the swing concept. But when I listen to their midi file of the dotted eighths example, it certainly does not sound or feel to me like swing -- in the larger sense.

Today's a good day for traditional New Orleans-style jazz, someone's put together a two-day celebration of the life and music of the banjo player and singer Danny Barker. Lots of Dixieland and 30's-style jazz. Swung eighths all over the place.

Lindy



Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Richard on January 12, 2008, 11:10:33 AM
Heres a preface to this post in that I started writing it before Johnm's last post however, I got distracted before posting! However since I had virtually finished it I though I might as well post and I do appreciate the content of Johnn's comments.

I think we are probably addressing the same point through our different ways apros swing as in notation or feel......
 

Lindy, now you have started us off on another tack  :o and we are going beyond the bounds of dotted quavers and triplets sans a middle beat!

First though, your remark about writing the word "swing" on a chart, I agree with that and have seen a few bigband drum parts with the phrase "swing like crazy" writ large! On a guitar note, Stacey Phillips who's lap tutor books always write as straight quavers with instructions to "swing".

But to "swing" itself, I felt your post was taking it to a new dimesion in that the word was used to describe the act of swing rather than the notation and is how I would normally use it. I don't know how you define it, it's a moment when you can shout "Yeah" when that piece of music touches the spot, the music does not have to be fast or furious and it's important to feel the difference between a hard driving piece and that elusive swing. And "swing" as such a magical moment, in my opinion, is unlikely to last more than few bars anyway and that some artists seem to have that abilty to generate it more than others.

I have just listened to East St Louis and there are moments, say the beginning of Coootie's middle eight when he lifts it right up. Ellington's 1940 rendition of Mainstem has many such moments and as another example Chick Webb's bands Who ya Hunchin' generates shouts from the band when it really gells! Oscar Peterson's '47 I got Rhythm is incredible when he finds his left hand! I had Better move to blues as the jazz list could be long one!

Basically, it's all very subjective and maybe harder to define in CB but you know it when you hear\feel it so a couple of immediate examples to my mind which certainly have it in part are Memphis Minnie's 1941 Me and my Chauffer and emphasis given by the offbeat on the opening chorus of Casey Bill's version of Big Bills Blues really lift that.

I'd better stop here!
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Pan on January 12, 2008, 04:44:02 PM
I've thought about the origins of the swung eighth notes and when did they emerge in jazz. Early ragtime music was usually played in straight eighth notes, at least as far as I know.
The earliest jazz recordings were made in 1917 (or maybe even 1916), but these were done by white bands only, and the rhythms are mostly straight eighth notes. Black jazz musicians apparently weren't recorded until the 20's. In fact jazz was claimed to be originally a "white" music style.  :o
The earliest recorded "blues" were also in straight eighth notes, but these were written ensemble works by W.C. Handy and the like, and have little to do with CB: http://www.redhotjazz.com/firstbluesrecords.html
Anyway, I claim to be no expert on the matter, but I suspect that the swung eight notes might originate from New Orleans, and at least Jelly Roll Morton played swung eight notes as early as in 1923, long before the "Swing Era". Check out "King Porter -A Stomp" from Red Hot Jazz site: http://www.redhotjazz.com/jellyroll.html , and also the numerous "blues" titles from 1924.

Pan
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: lindy on January 13, 2008, 07:11:11 AM

It?s a powerful word, ?swing.? It lights up all kinds of circuits in the brain, and I?m laughing at myself over how hard it is for me to filter out everything else to get down to the technical analysis of the type of eighth note someone is hitting. All of the past information?physical and intellectual?about the big concept of swing keeps on butting in.

As suggested, I listened to two versions of John Hurt?s ?Spike Driver?s,? one from 1928, the other from the Pete Seeger TV show, and I closed my eyes so I couldn?t watch John?s shoulders swaying. Sure enough, both have the same cut time. But the 1960s version is way funkier, and whether or not that has anything to do with ?swing? is the mental hole I keep falling into. Thinking that it may have been my inability to get MJH?s swaying shoulders out of my mind, I tried a different song that he also recorded in the original session for comparison: Frankie, which is famous for, among other things, the story that the original recording company had to speed up the recording to fit the entire song into three minutes. I compared the original with the version on the Rounder CD ?Legend,? which is much slower, and which has much more of that elusive quality that makes the body sway.

That makes me wonder about how the characteristics of tempo and counterpoint fit into the picture. In terms of tempo, compare the recordings of Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey to a lot of the high-speed jazz recordings from white bands that flooded the market at the very beginning of the first ?Jass? craze. I have zero evidence, but I can?t help but think that those two women had a lot of influence on the early evolution of the high-hat / ride cymbal swing sound that dominated the 30s and 40s. Their slow groove made the body sway; the faster jazz tunes got people doing hyper-frantic moves to the trendy dances of the day?the Shag, Balboa, Charleston, and so on. Lots of ?rhythmic vitality,? as JohnM states, but low on the funky scale.

In terms of both tempo and counterpoint, my feeling is that ?East St. Louis Toodle-Oo? swings from the very first bar because of the contrast between the banjo and the baritone sax/tuba). That contrast is where I hear the breakup of the 4/4 beat into different lengths or the variation in the pulse that is the focus of this thread.

It must be in the ears of the beholder. Lots of room for interpretation on what (and what doesn?t) constitute swing, it makes the concept fun to mull over. For some reason Othar Turner just came into mind, I think I?ll go listen to his take on rhythm, er, funkiness, um, swing, whatever.

Lindy
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Rivers on January 13, 2008, 08:48:52 AM
Lindy I'm with you on this. John Hurt's revival recordings are the most obvious example of how much swing you can get with fractional shading off the beat.

The right hand timing issues are so incredibly subtle as to be incapable of being notated. Not only that, they move in and out of play in different passages. I daresay if you look for them you can find places where he rushes the beat also, though I haven't checked this.

To look at the big picture, it's almost as if there's an inaudible beat happening that Hurt was playing to and we can all 'hear' but it's not in the physical music, at least not overtly. Perhaps we're talking about the limitations of musical notation to accurately document everything that is happening in folk music, there's much more going on at a micro and internal level to achieve an effect. Thank God for that, otherwise computers would be creating music by now. What's that you say? They are?

I'm very much a 'feel' player myself and like to get some swing happening. But I also like to play the straight time since it creates such a different emotion and sound. I admit this thread pretty much lost me early on but I'm hangin' in there!
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: waxwing on January 13, 2008, 10:51:04 AM
I'm not sure that having a few syncopated notes in the melody phrasing is the same as what Johnm was originally talking about here. For instance, in the Morton tracks Pan posted, I hear his chordal backing to be pretty much in square time throughout, with a few melody passages containing some syncopation that sounds more like 16th notes than tripled 8ths to me. This doesn't really seem to be what would evolve into the obvious triplet feel of say RJ or BBF.

On a side note, since Lindy brought up MJH's later Frankie recording, I'm curious as to the order of the verses, since I don't have a copy. It would have been impossible for the recording engineers to "speed up" the 1928 recording after the fact as all records were produced by mechanical transfers, i.e. molds, of the original. I have always figured that they timed him playing the piece, found it was a verse too long to fit and he decided to cut the "Ain't gonna tell you no stories" verse to make the song fit. Then, due to mechanical issues, the cutter was running slow and when he got to the end they signaled he had time for one more verse so he added it back on, obviously out of place. Hurt's later testimony that the engineers "sped it up" may have been merely Hurt's understanding of the events, not a true technical description. Of course, if he sings that verse last 50 years later it would shoot down my theory, unless, of course, he had forgotten the song and relearned it from his recording, which I guess is possible, but not probable. he original recording was in February, and if it was a particularly cold day in Memphis, someone inadvertently opening a window could have hardened the wax and slowed the cutter considerably if the engineer didn't re-calibrate the turntable.

Back to 'swinging' eighth notes. I think you may be onto something with Othar Turner, Lindy. I'm not so sure that swung eighths are a sophistication, born of inventiveness, as much as they may be a throw back or African "retention". Where they really become interesting, particularly with Patton and others is when they are used in a polyrhythm with the triplet feel underneath a cut time feel. This polyrhythm is often cited as an African retention and would more likely have been kept alive in the rural areas than in the heavily Euro influenced ragtime of the cities. Granted NO had a large African rhythmic influence through the drumming at Congo Square. But as I said, it sounds to me that Morton is breaking square time down into smaller, 16th note, segments (Richard's quavers, I guess?) rather than introducing a triplet feel under the square time. I don't have any OT so let us know what you hear.

All for now.
John C.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: uncle bud on January 13, 2008, 11:15:01 AM
On a side note, since Lindy brought up MJH's later Frankie recording, I'm curious as to the order of the verses, since I don't have a copy. It would have been impossible for the recording engineers to "speed up" the 1928 recording after the fact as all records were produced by mechanical transfers, i.e. molds, of the original. I have always figured that they timed him playing the piece, found it was a verse too long to fit and he decided to cut the "Ain't gonna tell you no stories" verse to make the song fit. Then, due to mechanical issues, the cutter was running slow and when he got to the end they signaled he had time for one more verse so he added it back on, obviously out of place. Hurt's later testimony that the engineers "sped it up" may have been merely Hurt's understanding of the events, not a true technical description. Of course, if he sings that verse last 50 years later it would shoot down my theory, unless, of course, he had forgotten the song and relearned it from his recording, which I guess is possible, but not probable. he original recording was in February, and if it was a particularly cold day in Memphis, someone inadvertently opening a window could have hardened the wax and slowed the cutter considerably if the engineer didn't re-calibrate the turntable.

Hurt sings it as the second verse on DC Blues - Library of Congress Recordings. I'm pretty sure he sings it on other 60s recordings as well, but don't have 'em handy at the moment.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Richard on January 13, 2008, 11:48:29 AM
Wax, I was thinking about your point of getting more onto a 78... I don't know if they could do that at all, but as brain teaser... would not the recording device have run a mite slower when recording to get more on it  ::)

Oh, what tangent are we off on now   ;D
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: waxwing on January 13, 2008, 12:30:46 PM
I think that's exactly what I said, Richard. It's just that MJH's statement that "I didn't play it that fast, the engineers sped it up to fit on a record," as quoted by Dave van Ronk, is often sited as proof, by those with no real understanding of the actual process, that engineers could speed up a recording after the fact, to fit say, a 4 minute recording onto 3 min 20 second 78. In actuality, the decision would have to be made before the recording, and would be accomplished, as I said, by slowing down the recording device. If they had done so on purpose, there would have been no reason for MJH to cut the second verse and then add it back on at the end. As it is, the recording seems to be proof that the slowed cutter was inadvertent and not the choice of the engineers.

If this discussion needs more space I'll create a new topic. Otherwise, any opinions on the relative sophistication or retention of the triplet eighth notes?

All for now.
John C.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Pan on January 14, 2008, 04:25:54 PM
Quoting Waxwing [I'm not sure that having a few syncopated notes in the melody phrasing is the same as what Johnm was originally talking about here. For instance, in the Morton tracks Pan posted, I hear his chordal backing to be pretty much in square time throughout, with a few melody passages containing some syncopation that sounds more like 16th notes than tripled 8ths to me. This doesn't really seem to be what would evolve into the obvious triplet feel of say RJ or BBF.]

Hi Waxwing.

I wonder if we are listening to the same Morton tunes. ::)
In my opinion "King Porter -A Stomp" is definitely played in swung eights. The songs' opening bars even start with triplets, to heighten the triplet subdivision feel. To subdivide the beat into sixteenth notes (or by four), would IMO result in a much more angular feel. Oh well, maybe we just define swung eighth notes differently. :(

I regard Morton as a somewhat transitional figure between ragtime and jazz. He certainly was no stranger to blues either, and has even claimed to have heard blues prior to 1900. Whether or not this is true, Morton knew many musicians who played both blues and jazz, like barrelhouse pianist Little Brother Montgomery.

On a side note, the unequal division of the eighth notes is not only a phenomena known in afro-american music. Apparently the french baroque musicians from the 17th century performed eighth notes (written out as straight) much in the same way, and the practise might have its' origins in medieval times. Some scholars even speculate, that this might have had an impact on music of New Orleans. Here's a Wikipedia article discussing the matter known as notes in?gales: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notes_in%C3%A9gales
I myself believe that the swung eighth notes in jazz and blues ow much to african rhythms, but it is good to acknowledge that the "messing around" with the subdivisions of a beat is somewhat universal human behavior  :). I seem to recall that some forum members are also interested into baroque music. Maye they'd care to comment on this?

Yours

Pan
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: waxwing on January 15, 2008, 09:16:25 AM
Absolutely, Pan. I never meant to imply that African music was the only music to use tripled eighths, polyrhythms or any other rhythmic or melodic characteristic. But it seems more likely that the polyrhythms in Blues were a retention of African music and not an investigation of French Baroque Classical music.-G-

Listening to King Porter - A Stomp, several times, I just cannot hear a swung eighth note sound. What I hear is more like One - - And - a - Two - - And - a - Three - - And - a - Four - - And - a - One, where the One and the And fall squarely on the straight eighth notes and the 'a's are sixteenth notes. It certainly "swings" in the broader sense that Lindy put forth, i.e. it really makes you want to tap your foot, but I just can't get myself to hear a triplet feel. Possibly the 16th notes are swung a bit, but they are too fast for me to really discern, I guess. Unfortunately, Transcribe! will not read a RealAudio file so I can't slow it down, nor get a visual depiction to straighten out my feeble ears. Not saying you're wrong, just my ears can't hear it, I guess. Anyone have an mp3 of King Porter - A Stomp they could post? Maybe it's just too fast for me to hear.

Of course, there was a strong French influence in New Orleans. If you're right that it was Morton who introduced tripled eighths and polyrhthtms to blues music, guys like Patton just imitating what they heard on the riverboats, perhaps you could[/] make a case that the polyrhytms in blues were descendent from the French Baroque music and that Rock and Roll itself is really French in origin.-G-

All for now.
John C.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Richard on January 15, 2008, 09:41:47 AM
You speak not with fork 78 cutter, Wax I must have missed that somehow... sea air maybe :o  anyhow I am nor orff to find a copy of JRMs KingPorter. Isn't it all fun ;)
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Richard on January 15, 2008, 09:51:21 AM
Well I would go with Pan on this one......... and with my drummer hat on if a pianist were to ask me accompany this tune I would certainly think swing not straight eights - it's not maybe the most obvious example but the feel is overall swing.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: uncle bud on January 15, 2008, 10:42:09 AM
I'm with Richard and Pan as well. As a recovering drummer, I too would swing through this. Part of the trick here is that Morton is playing straight eighths against the swinging rhythm much of the time. This creates a nice kind of tension to the playing (without actually checking other recordings, I would say Morton does this frequently). Whether this is an actual trick or simply a characteristic of a lot of early jazz I can't say, not being an expert in the style at all (though would guess the latter).

I've attached King Porter here for those who may be interested (educational purposes only, of course).

[attachment deleted by admin]
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Richard on January 15, 2008, 10:59:20 AM
Replies almost in real time !!!  I agree with UB (whoopps sorry) It certainly did happen now and again and Morton was somebody who couild carriy it off effortlessly... I have tune  going through my head which I can't place but is more extreme example of it, this will now drive me nuts till I remember  >:(
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: uncle bud on January 15, 2008, 11:22:44 AM
Thinking a bit more about King Porter, I agree this is a tricky example since it seems to have elements of both ragtime and swing rhythms. Makes it tough to sort out. I'm with Cootie Williams: give me Einstein's theory.  :D
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Pan on January 15, 2008, 12:28:47 PM
Hi all.

I've been thinking over this matter a bit.

The mathematically and theoretically perfect explanation to swung eight notes is IMO the one that JohnM has given us in the beginning of this thread, that is that the beat is divided in 1/4+1/8 note triplets.

Unfortunately in real life things aren't this simple. Depending on the given musician or style the notes can be almost anything between 2 straight eight notes and a dotted eighth note + a sixteenth note. This is a gray area, and I've noticed that people have very strong feelings about what exactly is swing or swung notes. To me, anything between those two extremes, excluding the extremes, is considered "swung eighth notes".
I realize that styles leaning in one direction sound a little different than those leaning on the other. For example, in the bebop era musicians tended often to play "straighter" swung eighths, than before. Of course extremely fast tempos naturally tend to even out the eights also. But I personally still tend to think of all of this as "swung eighth notes", just because I like to keep things simple. Then again this is my choice, and if others feel different, I'm wiling to listen

As Andrew stated, matters can be complicated even further, because in ensemble situations some musicians might choose to swing more than others, and even vary this within the song. How would you then describe the overall feel of the song?

A good example is "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo" which Lindy already mentioned. If you listen to the cornet soloist in this video, you'll notice that he is really wild with the rhythm, and plays anything from straight eight notes to dotted eighth and sixteenth and swung eights. The contrast with the trombone and clarinet solos are remarkable, during the same song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6LmSj26RRc

How would you describe the overall feeling in this song? I would call it a song with swung eighths, but I can fully understand if you do not agree. ::)

Pan

Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Richard on January 15, 2008, 01:36:26 PM
East St Louis Toodle oooooooooo.

I used to do this in my fun Ellington band period. Now, drumming wise I would class it as swing but that said so much of this stuff was basically really very square and relied on the rhythm section producing a collective four in a bar.

On thinking about this we are maybe reading too much into it and somehow allowing theory to get crossed with feel? This might seem very simplistic but most jazz will in fact fall into the swing eight note category as witness the basic cymbal rhythm which you can apply to most tunes.

And on we go  ;D
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Johnm on January 15, 2008, 02:00:11 PM
Hi all,
It's been very interesting to read the recent posts here.  In terms of ensemble playing, I think you all are really getting at something, which is that an entire ensemble's treatment of eighth note subdivision does not need to be monolithic, which is to say, everybody doesn't have to be dividing things in the same way.  Without having listened to the Jelly Roll Morton example, I can say that from experience with other recordings, you can often get the most intense "tug" and rhythmic tension by soloing in straight eighths over a swinging rhythm section.  Some bands characteristically screwed around with the subdivisions in this way.  The Cannonball Adderly Quintet comes to mind.  Sometimes they created so much rhythmic tension, it felt like it was going to snap.
This quality of tension created by different subdivisions of the beat is necessarily more difficult to pull off by a solo performer, but that is not to say that it is impossible.  Skip James, as mentioned earlier in this thread, Robert Johnson, Bo Carter and Big Joe Williams have all done it.  It is far more common for a soloist to either swing eighths or play straight eighths, but establishing one treatment and then switching to the other mid-course is not unheard of, and is a great effect. 
all best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: waxwing on January 16, 2008, 12:33:13 AM
Well, not being a Jazz or Rock drummer, I think I better bow out. I seem to have a tin ear when it comes to rhythm. Honestly, even slowed down 50% (thanks Richard) it sounds to me like Morton's left hand is doing a straight, and square, boom chang about 90% of the time. It must be laughable. Of course, his right hand is all over the place, in front of the beat, behind the beat, throwing the accent around, swinging, I guess, but rarely giving a real consistent triplet feel, at least to my ear. So I'm obviously out of my league.

It seems to me the Jazz definition of "swing" is anything that is just not absolutely straight up and down (and if you dare to think you can define it with time values, you're wrong.-G-), whereas the Blues definition of "swung eighths", to me, gives a strong triplet feel. These two definitions don't seem to be able to coexist in the same conversation.-G-

I hesitate to mention that I've gone back to working on Bo Carter's Some Day, which, according to my transcription, has the swung eighths feel that I thought Johnm was talking about when he started this thread, with lots of triplet runs like the Blake stuff Johnm referred to. I think there's a cool little spot in the fourth bar of each verse (or chorus, the C Major part) where he does a descending arpeggio on the C chord in tripled eighths while striking the G bass on square eighths. He repeats the same arpeggio several times after the IV/bVI chord section, but without squaring the bass. The only other time he goes square is in the measure leading to the A minor verses, but there are no triplets there. Well, I thought I was getting that little bit pretty good, but now, heh, I have no idea. I'll just have to go on faith.

Anyway, I'm on the sidelines from here on out for this one.

All for now.
John C.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Richard on January 16, 2008, 01:45:14 AM
Wax, don't bow out! You might feel a bit lost on this one but it's just as I feel a bit lost when you start to disssect a Bo Carter tune where you are also sure of your ground. I'm a jazz play player and as I said I feel the majority of jazz does fall  under the swing heading, maybe not always blatently but the underlying swing essence is there and by that I mean as a feel for a complete piece. I don't wish to bore you more jazz but take say St Louis Blues or Ellington's Caravan which are well known and really illustrate the tremendous swing feel when coming out of the straight passage into the chorus.

CB blues performers (without the benefit of a rhythm section!) have I suppose had to emphasis that swung\straight feel for themselves which I have always felt makes the feel of a CB piece far more discernable, typically piano pieces serve to illustrate the divide.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Pan on January 16, 2008, 03:34:08 AM
Hi Waxwing, and all.

I'll second Richards' request to have you with us on this thread. And I apologize if I somewhat strongly disagreed with you over King Porter Stomp. :(
From your last post I'm wondering if you count the song differently than I do. You talk about the left hand boom-chang accompaniment, and how you feel it is in square time. To my ears Morton is playing a left hand stride-style accompaniment mostly in quarter notes. They would be played straight, even if the eighth notes are swung. But if you think of the stride as played in eighth notes, they would seem straight. So I'm essentially wondering if you feel the songs pulse as half slower than me, in which case you would be right about the "eighth notes" (my "quarter notes") being straight. Well, I hope I haven't confused you all even more. :P

In any case, KPS wasn't a very clear example of swung eighth notes, because the syncopated ragtime influences, and the fluctuation of the right hand rhythms. I added it on this thread, because of my search of early recordings of swing feel, not because it's a particularly good example on the matter.

To get back on Mortons' influence on jazz and blues, I'm not claiming that he put the swing on jazz or blues. But he certainly knew them and Ragtime as well. Since he claims to have known blues from the beginning of the century, he (and jazz) might have gotten the swung eighth notes originally from the blues as well. Without recorded evidence it's hard to tell.

I wish I had more recordings of early barrelhouse blues pianists, they might also be a source of swung eighths.

I also wish that you stay with us Wax, because some of your comments are very good, and have given me much to think of. For example, this thread has got me thinking of the history of the swung eighths. If we accept that they are present in the music due to African influence (as I always have), some questions might arise:

-Why the U.S.A. ? I mean in southern America or Cuba, where the African influence also was strong, the music is usually played in quite complex rhythms, but rather without swung eighths.

-The early black music such as Ragtime and Cakewalks were played in straight eighths. So appears to be the earliest jazz, and much of early CB. If the swing feel is from African heritage, where did it go in the meantime, and why did it reappear more strongly only later on?

-The African influence in swung eighth notes is something that is often referred to. But when I think of it, I realize that I haven't seen much hard evidence in this, it is more like something taken for granted. Maybe there are deeper studies on the matter and I just don't know about them. But since swung eighth notes are normally not played in western music, could it be that their being "alien" is the cause for blaming African influence? I know very little African music, but I don't recall hearing much swung eighths in the music I've heard. Could it be that swung eighth notes in jazz and blues are an American invention?

What do you think?

Pan
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: uncle bud on January 16, 2008, 10:29:02 AM
Oh, Wax, you're being silly.  ;)

I think part of the difference is you seem to be focused on triplets and perhaps listening for a clear shuffle pattern. This music just seems too fast to think of the full triplets to me. There is the opening phrase if you want to break it down to that. I perhaps wouldn't bother with this one, since it's an unusual example, but then I think a lot of Jelly Roll Morton might fit in the unusual example category. He really does have both elements in much of his playing.

You should not really be listening for swing in Morton's left hand, which you seem to be saying you're doing. As you and Pan point out, that is a boom-chang or stride style of accompaniment. Almost all the swing is coming from the right hand, and again, it's a tricky example, particularly given how much he plays with straight eighths.

Attached is another example, where Morton's with a full band (the Red Hot Peppers). The swing is more obvious here to me, and of course it's called Georgia Swing. Listen to the clarinet solo at the 0:40 mark or so for an example of playing straight eighths against the swinging rhythm. The cornet and trumpet solos that follow it swing much more. Then the piano solo starts playing it straighter again.

When I was being taught in my former life as a drummer, the explanation of swing was much as Pan has it. Sure you can notate it as triplet, but sometimes the feel isn't quite that. I saw it notated in several ways, depending on the music I was given: in triplets, in straight eighths that were to be interpreted as swing, and as the shuffle pattern Richard posted earlier which was again to be interpreted as swing (i.e. not played as square as the notation). Pan makes the point of some bebop players swinging a bit straighter, and there's a different kind of swing too in some early jazz to my ear, again perhaps a bit straighter. Swing was not presented to me as a metronomic concept, and if it was played metronomically, it could in fact be a bit too mechanical. Sometimes it was looser, sometimes tighter, depending on the music.

To talk of swung eighths in blues however is a bit simpler I think. Here I believe we can think pretty safely in triplets: the music is slower, the difference in feel between straight and swung eighths more obvious than in the JR Morton stuff. But I don't think the concepts are separate conversations they way you state.

Getting back to JohnM's original post, in which he mentions Memphis Minnie's early examples of shuffle and swung eighths. I was listening to the Yazoo compilation CD Frank Stokes' Dream yesterday and Pearl Dickson's Twelve Pound Daddy came on, lots of triplets and shuffle feel. Dickson was backed by the Harney brothers on two guitars, Maylon and Richard (who later became known as Hacksaw Harney). Dickson's record is from 1927 (Minnie started recording in '29) and it's interesting as an almost anachronistic example of shuffle. It sounds both "modern" and "early" to me. The flip side, Little Rock Blues is very similar. Both these songs can be found on the Document disc Memphis Blues Vol 2 (1927-1938) DOCD-5159. I can post an example if people would like.

Andrew


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Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Johnm on January 16, 2008, 12:34:28 PM
Hi all,
John C., I would add that your assessment of Bo Carter's treatment of time on "Someday" is dead on the money, at least as I hear it.  After thinking a lot more about issues of ensemble versus solo playing and dealing with the issue of swing eighths or not, I think in ensemble situations the greatest lattitude in phrasing and treatment of time is characteristically given to soloists (or in the case of pianists like Jelly Roll Morton, the right hand) because of the soloists' mandate to "tell a story".  A completely consistent subdivision of the beat in a soloist, even if fundamentally groovy, is likely to end up sounding a bit sing-song--if working with broken triplets a little too much like "Mairzy Doats" and if working at the opposite end with a dotted eighth and sixteenth feel, a little too much like Beethoven or Robert Schumann, both of whom loved dotted rhythms.  Giving the soloist the leeway to phrase the eighths in different ways allows for a more vocal, declamatory quality--both a more sung and more spoken feel, and thus appropriate for telling a story.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Pan on January 16, 2008, 04:51:59 PM
Hi again.

I hope I'm forgiven, if I continue my quest for early recordings with "swung eighths". Rest assured, that for obvious reasons, this will not last for a very long time. :)

To have some blues containt in my posts, for a change, I'm happy to have found out that Bessie Smith did a bunch of really great songs with swung eighths in 1923. I'm especially pleased with "Aggravating Papa" which a small ensemble recording, but there really are a great number of others as well. http://www.redhotjazz.com/smithdownhome.html What a wonderful singer she was! In "Cemetery Blues" her own phrasing is very clearly swung.

Another New Orleans pianist worth mentioning is James P. Johnson. His "Carolina Shout" from 1921 will fit in my book of swung eighths, and the song has some quite original rhythmic twists: http://www.redhotjazz.com/jpjohnson.html

Some of the earliest "jass" band recordings have a sort of dotted 8th+16th feeling, but to me, they don't swing, so I am not adding them here. Check them out yourselves, and report back, if you find something. This is, of course, highly subjective.

I actually have some ideas about CB phrasing and swung eighths, but I'll have to do some serious listening, to not make myself even a more of a fool on this site, than I already am.  :P Will get back to you.

Pan
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Johnm on January 16, 2008, 05:04:50 PM
Hi Pan,
There's no danger of you being taken for a fool.  Your explanation of swung eighths operating in a sort of sliding continuum between straight eighths and a dotted eighth followed by a sixteenth on the last previous page of the thread was a beautiful explanation of how the issue plays out as executed by living, breathing musicians.  You're dead right, too, that rapid tempos tend to straighten out eighth notes somewhat; there simply isn't enough time to swing them very deeply.  Don't feel you have to edit yourself tightly.  Everything you're saying makes good sense to me.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: lindy on January 16, 2008, 06:05:33 PM

I knew this thread would eventually get around to Mairzy Dotes and Robert Schumann. What took us so long?

I appreciated Rivers? comment about ?To look at the big picture, it's almost as if there's an inaudible beat happening that [John] Hurt was playing to and we can all 'hear' but it's not in the physical music, at least not overtly.

Here?s my take: that inaudible beat is the contrast that swing needs in order to work. The contrast can come in the form of two instruments, or a simple up stroke blended into a series of down strokes on a guitar, or as Jerry Ricks did on ?Change Your Ways,? just lightly hit a little drone note as part of the basic 6-4-6-4-6-4 bass thumb pattern, just enough to make you wonder if you?re hearing it, or an overtone or, a phantom sound.

I got to see the Count Basie band a few times during the last years of his life, and he always did this thing with Freddie Green where Freddie strummed (mostly down strokes) and Basie played some of those single notes with lots of space between them that he was famous for, and they swung, as they had been for 40-something years.

I only know one jazz progression with a flatted 7th and a major 3rd, and when I was showing it to my 12-year-old guitar student, I just showed him the two-note versions of the chords. All we did was practice the progression with down strokes. Then I added the simple melody to ?Bag?s Groove? over it. Until I started playing the melody, there was no swing present. When I started playing the melody, the kid?s dad came in the room saying ?How?d you make that sound??

I also taught my student to add some up strokes to the Bag?s Groove progression, and you should?ve seen his eyes light up with that look of ?Oh, so that?s how you make that sound!? The up strokes broke up the rhythm into the ?2/3 + 1/3? components. I know, I know, I?m not saying anything new here, but still, it?s amazing how small adjustments like that can cause such a shift in a listener?s perspective.

I?ll bet we?ve all had the experience of listening to a band, in many genres but especially in jazz, where one player will do a riff or repeat a phrase at the very beginning of a song, one that is really hard to grab onto because it skips a beat or puts an accent in a strange place, then a second instrument joins in, and instantaneously you go, ?Oh, that?s the rhythm he was leading into!? The second musician adds the contrast that the swing groove requires.

When I listened to a CD of Othar Turner and his grandkids the other night, I heard their special way of doing this. In some songs where the snare sets the rhythm, you can certainly picture a field full of military recruits marching to the drummer?s cadence. But when Grandpa blows one or two notes on his reed flute, the snare rhythm takes on an entirely different feeling. In my mind the rhythm is just a few steps removed from that New Orleans-Professor Longhair-Iko Iko thang we all love.

It?s magic, I tell you, swing rhythms, voo-doo, phantom sounds, mystical spirits and all that, that?s why jazz was born down in these parts . . .

Lindy
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Rivers on January 16, 2008, 06:50:50 PM
Yeah. go lindy! We're on the same wavelength here.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Johnm on January 16, 2008, 10:25:30 PM
Good on you, Andrew, for locating a pre-Memphis Minnie shuffle feel in "Twelve Pound Daddy"!  I dug it up and it is every bit as much a shuffle feel as "Memphis Minnie-jitis" and the various other shuffles that Minnie and Kansas Joe did.  Good detective work!
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: waxwing on January 17, 2008, 08:44:14 AM
Alright, I can't help myself.-G- And, Pan, I can't see why you should feel like your looking like a fool, I'm the one with virtually no music background (forgotten piano lessons at an early age) and only 6 years of listening to and playing the blues.

But I can't help seeing, or hearing, the differences between 'swing' in Jazz and 'swung eighths' in Blues. Thinking back to the part of the discussion about musicians being responsive to, or leading the way to, dance styles, it seems that in Jazz, the rhythmic basis of the tune stays square and the 'swing' comes from the syncopation of the melodic players (or piano soloist's right hand) which varies, conversationally, from phrase to phrase, and the whole thing generally goes off at a tempo well past double that of the blues, in which the 'shuffle' beat beat is carried firmly in the bass and midrange of the guitar accompaniment, with the melody, carried by the vocal, bending and weaving conversationally around the 'swung eighths' rhythm. It seems to me anyone dancing to the jazz would be following the square rhythm but blues dancers would be following a 'swung eighths' rhythm. The jazz syncopation, at least in the examples given here, seems to be too fast and too inconsistent (conversational) to be the basis for any dance. I realize I'm working with gross generalities and very few samples here, but I'm just trying to make sense of the strong differences I hear. The two style just don't really seem to be related and it would be hard to imagine that either one was an influence on the other.

Pan, a good start in anyone's investigations of African rhythms in the blues would be Paul Oliver's Savannah Syncopators, which is contained in the book Yonder Comes the Blues. It's been some time since I read it, so I can't cite quotes, but it left a strong impression of the polyrhythms which he found there and their similarities to those in Blues, and, no doubt, in Jazz.

All for now.
John C.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Pan on January 17, 2008, 10:54:26 AM
Great to have you back with us Waxwig! :D

I agree with you, that there is a big stylistic difference, whether the swung eights are played over a straight quarter note accompaniment, or if they are already present in the accompaniment itself, such as in the shuffle blues comping.

Thanks for the Paul Oliver tip, I will see if I can locate the book in a local library.

Cheers

Pan :)

E: typos
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Pan on January 17, 2008, 03:16:22 PM
Hi all

I previously talked about a Big Bill Broonzy song where he inserts straight 8th notes into a song with swung 8th feel.

I'd like to think of an example from an opposite starting point.

On their 1928 recording of "Cool Drink Of Water Blues" Tommy Johnson and Charlie McCoy do something really cool with the rhythm.
The song is played in straight eighths note feel, except for some particular, and very important moments.

I believe that Johnson is playing the high E - G - E - G - E melodic motive, and that McCoy takes care of the bass string licks and the high mandolin like tremolos as well. I believe this, because the melodic motive is what holds the song together, and it would be natural for the singer to do this. I could, of course, be wrong.

Anyway, when the song opens with the melodic motive, and the second guitar enters, the second guitar enters with swung eighth notes, instead of straight ones. This leaves the listener somewhat unsure whether the song is in straight or swung eighth notes feel. When the vocals start, the guitars don't strongly state one or the other. The tremolo in the bass licks is sort of rhythmically ambivalent also.

In the end of the first chorus McCoy(?) however is clearly playing straight 8ths, and establishes a feeling of straight eighths which is held over the rest of the song, except maybe for a very slight hesitation between the two rhythmic approaches on the end of the "asked the conductor" chorus.

However when Johnson (?) decides to end the song, he launches to a bass strings lick played in swung 8ths, and the 2nd guitar immediately echoes this.

This rhythmic treatment in a basically straight 8ths song,  is very exciting. To begin the song with swung eights and then end up doing it in straight 8ths will put the listener in his / her toes. To my ears this adds a dramatic tension in the song, as if the players were trying to force the straight feeling over the swung eighth one. And as if in the end they gave up and let the swung 8ths win. :).

All of the same time they remain absolutely minimalist on their efforts and extremely professional about the whole process, which adds still another contrast to the whole thing. To my ears these guys are among the coolest on earth! :D

Apart from the rhythm, the almost hypnotic motive on the high e string of Johnsons' (?) guitar, and the loose structure with only partial chords and only hints to possible IV or V chords add greatly to make this song the great masterpiece it is. And most of all, Johnsons' incredible vocals, of course.

Anyway, this is just my very subjective take on the rhythmic treatment of the song, and I hope it will provoke some thoughts in you, whether or not you agree with any of this.

Cheers

Pan

edit: typos

Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Johnm on January 18, 2008, 11:23:28 AM
Hi all,
Thanks for the discussion of "Cool Drink of Water", Pan.  Tommy Johnson and Charlie McCoy also have a kind of tug of war between the swung eighths of McCoy and the straight eighths of Johnson on "Maggie Campbell Blues", though I don't think it works as well there.  They sound like they start out with the rhythm flipped, each hearing the downbeat falling in the opposite place, with it sorting itself out when they get to the IV chord.
An example of a soloist playing a song with changeable treatment of the division of the beat is Elizabeth Cotten's rendition of "Graduation March".  The tune is in 6/8, like the "Washington Post March", with the bass alternating in swung eighths (or broken triplets, if you prefer that) for the greater part of the tune.  The progression in the A part of the tune is as follows:

   |     C      |      G7      |    C      |      C     |     F     |     F    |     C   |      C     |

   |     C      |      G7      |    C      |      C     |    G9    |    G9   |    G    |  D    G  |

   |     C      |      G7      |    C      |      C     |     F     |    F      |    E    |     E7    |

   |     F       |      F        |    C      |     C      |    C      |    G7   |    C    |      C     |

The one place where Libba breaks out of the broken triplet feel in the bass is on the two bars of E7.  There she switches the meter to cut time for two measures and switches to straight eight notes, giving the brief phrase there a very raggy feel.  It's a very cool effect.  And because it's one of the relatively rare places where a soloist changes the subdivisions in the bass it's a good place to pick up that sound.  Incidentally, I never noticed until listening to "Graduation March" this time how close it is to Kelly Harrell's song "In The Shadow of the Pines".
All best,
Johnm   

     
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Pan on January 18, 2008, 02:37:58 PM
Although maybe slightly off topic, I thought that the "chronology of recorded blues" I stumbled onto, might be of some help on this thread: http://www.earlyblues.com/chronology_of_blues_on_record.htm

Pan
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Pan on January 19, 2008, 09:59:43 AM
Lucille Hegamin was recording right after Mamie Smith, in 1920.

She did two takes of a song called "Jazz Me Blues".

The first one was done with a jazz band, and it's played with straight eights.

Interestingly, the second one, recorded also in November 1920 was done with only a piano player accompanying her, and it is played with swung eights.

http://www.redhotjazz.com/blueflame.html

(The take with swung eights is the Black Swan one.)

Pan
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: MTJ3 on January 19, 2008, 10:20:21 AM
Gunther Schuller's comments may complicate this further, show a different perspective or be entirely irrelevant, depending on what you're looking for.  In his Early Jazz, writing about the Fletcher Henderson band, at page 257, Schuller notes: "In its rhythmic phrasing, the band placed notes stiffly on the beat, jerky by any standards, and when combined with [Coleman] Hawkins's aggressive slap-tonguing, difficult to take today.  The eighth notes are played very much as the dotted eighth-sixteenth pattern [notated example omitted], and there is very little legato playing.  It is interesting to note that at the same time(1923) the Oliver and Piron orchestras were playing a more loping triplet [notated example omitted] rhythm, while still farther west, the Bennie Moten band was playing even eighth notes in an uncomfortably primitive, stiff manner.  The rhythmic-stylistic elements are of great importance for delineating regional characteristics in the early bands."
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Richard on January 19, 2008, 11:25:01 AM
Whilst I take the point MTJ3 but let me reiterate what I said in my earlier post
Quote
...so much of this stuff was basically really very square and relied on the rhythm section producing a collective four in a bar.

Now remember this is very early 20s and that this was the way bands played. Nobody had really got as far as inventing the (swing) wheel per se as a band tool, although it was obviously in evidence and dabbled with. Bands of that period  (including Ellingtons) relied on that that solid collective basic four and from that platform, as has been already noted, a soloist could either go swing or straight.

In any event I feel it was a bit unfair of  Schuller to compare Moten, who was just starting out and only recorded two tunes in '23 with Oliver's well established band which also just happened to have one very inventive Louis Armstrong on second cornet not to mention the likes of Johnny Dodds et al!

Also, the bigger bands of that time were, despite enthisiastic musical drive, were often constrained by lack-lustre arrangements as compare to the small bands. And, whilst mentioning arrangements compare the number of tunes from 30s that can be easliy recalled as compared to those of very early 20s which were composed in that rather non-swing style.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Johnm on January 19, 2008, 03:47:16 PM
Hi all,
I see what you mean about Schuller's perjorative judgements of bygone treatments of rhythm being a bit harsh, Richard, in light of what was to become commonplace not so much later, swinging, but you can't swing until you've done it for the first time, and you may not be able to swing dependably until you've done it many times.  I read somewhere that late in his life, when questioned about these early recordings, Coleman Hawkins denied having been on the records. 
I think Schuller's point about treatment of the divisions of the beat being a good indicator of different regional styles is fascinating, though.  And Schuller's erudition is formidable.  In preparation for writing "The Swing Era", I know he listened to the entire recorded works of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, in the order they were recorded, so he could note the point at which new elements made their way into their music.  Whew, the amount of work involved in doing something like that is staggering, but I suspect you have to do something akin to that to nail down when changes occurred for the first time.  I'm always interested to read what he has to say.
all best,
Johnm 
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Richard on January 20, 2008, 02:18:17 AM
Hi Johnm

Glad you see where I was coming from and I'm not knocking Schuller's great work as such, more like putting a few points into (my) perspective!

As for Hawkins, it's some time since I listened to the '23 Henderson band but as I recall he is most certainly visible, aurally so to speak.. work that one out  ;D  I shall have to excavate an LP or two.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Pan on January 22, 2008, 10:05:31 AM
Hi all

Lucille Bogan a.k.a. Bessie Jackson recorded a bunch of songs in June 1923, in Atlanta Georgia.

Chirpin' The Blues, Don't Mean You No Good Blues, Lonesome Daddy Blues, and The Pawn Shop Blues, 
are all played in swung eighths, although at times the pianist plays some straight eighth notes and briefly doubles the tempo in Lonesome Daddy Blues.

Triflin' Blues (Daddy, Don't You Trifle On Me), however, is played in straight eight notes.

http://www.redhotjazz.com/bogan.html

Pan
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Pan on January 22, 2008, 02:51:50 PM
I'm told by the internet (yeah, what a reliable source :P) that Sylvester Weaver was the first country blues guitarist ever recorded. Can anyone confirm this?

His first recording gig apparently was backing up Sara Martin. In 1923 they recorded many songs, among them the first one's were "Roaming Blues" where Weaver somewhat alters between swung and straight eighths in a way that makes me think of Blind Blake. The flip side was a song called "I've Got To Go And Leave My Daddy Behind" which is also done in swung eighths. Here's a link to the Red Hot Jazz site with the songs: http://www.redhotjazz.com/martin.html

During the same month (or sessions?) he also recorded his first solo performances which were slide pieces in open tunings, played in straight eighth notes. You can hear samples of the 1923 "Guitar Blues" and "Guitar Rag" on this site: http://www.cduniverse.com/search/xx/music/pid/1021191/a/Complete+Recorded+Works+Vol.+1+(1923-1927).htm

Check out also the Stefan Wirz discography for more details: http://www.wirz.de/music/weasyfrm.htm

I'm afraid that the only "conclusion" that I can make from all of this very limited recorded material (and my even far more limited knowledge of it), is that as long as real CB and jazz have been recorded, both straight and swung eighths have been present. The domination of either the straight or the swung feel, and how they are to be interpreted seems to be a both stylistic and personal choice.

Pan
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Pan on May 09, 2008, 07:31:49 AM
I just noticed that Blind Blake, accompanying Bertha Henderson, starts the song "Leavin' Gal Blues" as a slow blues, playing triplets in the 12/8 style. Later in the song he starts to play even 8th notes and a more sparse quarter note accompaniment.

Pan
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Johnm on April 24, 2010, 02:30:44 PM
Hi all,
I've been transcribing a bunch of Bo Carter tunes lately:  "She's Gonna Crawl Back Home To You", "Pretty Baby", "She Keeps On Spending My Change" and today, "Someday", and one of the difficulties I've encountered is dealing with Bo's treatment of rhythm and time.  Each one of these songs has a predominant 12/8 feel to its time signature--four beats per measure with an underlying triplet feel to each beat.  In such a feel, most often when the beat splits into "one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and" it does not split evenly; rather you end up with so-called broken triplets, in which the note falling on the beat has the duration of the first two notes of the triplet and the "and" falls on the third note of the triplet.  It's a basic shuffle feel.

The problem arises when you notice that Bo also does divide the beat evenly quite often, switching from the triple feel to a deeper duple feel.  Skip James and Robert Johnson also did this switching from a triple to a duple feel a fair amount.  It has been a bear notating the rhythm accurately.  Today, in "Someday", I noticed that Bo tended to play the straight, unswung eighth notes behind his singing, in the first two bars of each four-bar phrase, and reverted to the 12/8 feel and swung eighths for his instrumental fills in the third and fourth bars of each four-bar phrase.  It was kind of neat to recognize that Bo was alternating the duple and triple feels in a controlled fashion, simultaneously feel and concept-driven, and not just spritzing.  He really was a remarkable musician.  He exerted control of his materials in a way that is incredibly rare in this music.
All best,
Johnm 
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: col on April 26, 2010, 12:13:12 PM
I'm glad this thread has been resurrected - I missed it first time around.

It's very interesting, and seems mostly accurate from my limited knowledge. The first person I thought of when country blues in straight eighths was mentioned was MJH, I love that snappy raggy feel he gets.

One thing that to me seems clearly wrong though is the suggestion that, apart from his mid tempo numbers like 'black dog blues', Blind Blake didn't use a swing/shuffle rhythm.

I remembered transcribing 'Diddie wah diddy' and 'Too tight No2' a while back, and using a shuffle (I posted here about how best to notate it).
So Just now I went to check, first at true tempo, then slowed down with 'Transcribe!', and sure enough, both 'Diddie wah Diddie' and 'Too Tight No2' have a pretty heavy swing/shuffle (although it is very fast :)).

Am I misunderstanding what is meant by swing in the thread, or have I misinterpreted 16th as 8ths in Blake's tunes?

Col


Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Johnm on April 28, 2010, 08:38:04 PM
Hi col,
I think you're right that Blake was able to swing the eighth notes on some of his quicker numbers as well as the medium tempo songs.  Other quicker songs are not swung so much.  I remember remarking on this after listening to Blake's renditions of "Police Dog Blues" and "Chump Man".  I swung the eighth notes much more on those tunes than Blake did.  I think Ari Eisinger does much the best job of any contemporary player I have heard of calibrating the degree of swing that Blake employed, at whatever tempo.  Moreover, he can play in Blake's style without actually quoting Blake, which shows how deeply he has assimilated Blake's musical language.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: shmot on February 09, 2013, 07:58:16 PM
Hi--I've been looking for discussions/information about the earliest known swing eighths, but not in blues or jazz...only in mainstream pop recordings. I see this is an old string, so maybe no one will see this.

1--I believe that the "urge" to swing can be felt in some very early recordings...a 1912 cylinder recording of Irving Berlins's "When that midnight Choochoo Leaves for Alabam" on Youtube.

2--also on You tube, I found a 1926 recording of "Charleston" supposedly recoded by the pit band for the original show that the song came from: this recording was curiously square and straight.

3---I believe that many early songs had the swing written in, in dotted 8ths and 16ths. There are also several songs with long such passages followed by written straight 8ths, which shows me that both swing and straight co-existed even within one song. (Toddling the Todalo, and several Louis Hirsh songs).

4--I think straight ragtime 8ths carried on into the 1920s--see Irving Berlin's "Everybody Step", which makes more sense and impact if played straight.

5--Pan asks some questions that I wonder about re African influence, and one thing that really sticks out for me is--by 1920 the African influence would have been about 100 to 200 years in the past. I would guess it was not contemporary. If this is correct, then who knows how west African music sounded in 1740 to 1830 or so? Is there any contemporarily notated record of this? And, even if 1760 African music had something like unequal 8ths, is it reasonable to think that that characteristic would survive unchanged until 1920 or so?

6--finally for now, note that the Cakewalk rhythm (16th 8th 16th 8th 8th) is also a standard Spanish rhythm still known now all over South America as La Danza, and also found in the Habanera. Since the Cakewalk is usually seen as a sort of precurser to Ragtime, and ragtime to swing 8ths, is there a possibility that swing 8ths have a Spanish origin? and then since Spain was ruled by Arabs for 700 years or so---does swing actually have an Arab/Spanish origin? (the matter of Spanish roots for swing is being examined by others too).

any thoughts?
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: dj on February 10, 2013, 07:15:15 AM
It's interesting to see this thread revived now that I've spent a fair amount of time listening to early jazz and to pre-1920 pop music, two areas that I knew very little about when this thread began. 

Swing is a funny thing.  Listening to Fred Van Eps playing Old Folks Rag in 1914, I don't know what the sheet music looks like, but if I were transcribing the song, I'd do it in 12/8, with the dominant rhythmic pulse being quarter eighth quarter eighth...  And the first phrase of the song wouldn't seem out of place if you heard Blind Boy Fuller play it as part of the intro to a blues recorded 20-some years later.  But I can't say that the Van Eps song swings, while Fuller playing the same notes would definitely swing.  I think partly because Van Eps is really enphasizing the one beat, while Fuller emphasizes the two and four, and partly it's because Van Eps is really solid on the 12/8 rhythm, while Fuller lets the same rhythm "breathe" a bit, for want of a better term.  Moving on a few years, the clarinet and cornet players in the Original Dixieland Jazz Band sometimes swing a bit, especially in the into to their songs.  The 1919 recording of Ja Da is an example of this.  It's not a full quarter-eitghth swing, but more a move to slightly hold the first note of a straight-eighth pair and shorten the second note a bit.

I'm not so sure that an African-American tradition is involved here, because I don't hear any tendency to swing either in minstrelsy (including both white minstrels presenting "authietic" black music and black minstrels themselves) nor in the Jubilee singers that were popular from the Civil War through the 1920s.  But I'm not a scholar in those fields, and my listening experience is necessarily limited.  I'd be happy to hear examples cited.

I think the South American link is interesting.  The Maxixe - a Brazillian dance - was popular in the early teens, with both Vernon and Irene Castle and Joan Sawyer featuring it in their acts.  Listening to recordings of Maxixe music, like Bregeiro by Joan Sawyer's Persian Garden Orchestra (an African-American band led by Dan Kildare), one can hear a bit of a swing feel to the music.

I guess you could sum up what I've just said by saying "I don't know a lot about the origins of swing, but it's an interesting subject, and I'd like to know more about it."       


Edited for a better description of what Fred Van Eps and Blind Boy Fuller are doing rhythmically.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Johnm on February 10, 2013, 07:53:44 AM
Hi all,
One additional point I would make is that I would be leery of early attempts to notate rhythms of dance/popular music as evidence of that music swinging.  Dividing a beat, for instance, into a dotted eighth and a sixteenth note definitely does not swing, if played as written.  Rhythmic notation of any era's vernacular music is a very poor indicator of performance practice, at least if based on the music of eras where we have relatively easy access to recordings.  Transcriptions of rhythm almost invariably require access to the recorded performance to achieve the same feel.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: dj on February 10, 2013, 10:03:14 AM
Quote
Dividing a beat, for instance, into a dotted eighth and a sixteenth note definitely does not swing, if played as written.

That's exactly the point I was trying to make when comparing Fred Van Eps and Blind Boy Fuller, John.  Thanks for saying it so much more clearly than I could.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: shmot on February 10, 2013, 05:20:37 PM
Johnm, I absolutely agree with you about being leery of printed rhythms being taken for swing, and I always try to refer to the earliest possible recording(s) of any old song to determine the swing factor.

Having said that, many years of listening to these old records shows me that dotted 8th/16th printed rhythms do not always sound exactly strict on the records. Plus, I do think (without proof) that the prevalence of that rhythm can be taken as an indication that the song should swing--or could.

and especially on popular songs, there were 2 distinct styles of touch (re dotted 8ths): some had a very sharp, detached style, while other were more legato. The legato style tends to sound swingier, or perhaps even to swing, whereas the detached staccato style sounds a bit "corny" to my ears..the note values more exact...not that that's a bad thing.

I doubt that blues players ever used the staccato style. But again, that's not my field.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Johnm on February 10, 2013, 06:19:17 PM
Hi shmot,
I know exactly what you mean about the staccato sound.  It is the primary reason the Lawrence Welk Orchestra always sounded so dorky, to use a technical musical term.  And welcome to Weenie Campbell!
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: shmot on February 12, 2013, 06:47:22 PM
hello Johnm---re staccato in old pop---I was not referring to Mr. Welk---he was the tail end of this.

believe me, those notes meant something different in 1912--they were snappy and energetic, pretty jazzy (in pop music anyway.)

btw, what is meant by Weenie Campbell? I don't check FAQs.

meanwhile, I am hoping for more opinions and thoughts on the beginning of swing 8ths. Pop piano "before swing" is my area of study.
Title: Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
Post by: Rivers on February 16, 2013, 08:57:03 AM
We don't do FAQ's, neether. See http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?page=page4243 (http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?page=page4243)
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