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The water broke out in the morning time. We could hear it when it broke, just like a 'Boom!' It busted the levee through. And the water was coming. We could hear the river roaring. People was hollering, 'The levee broke! Get ready and get out!' - David Honeyboy Edwards, April 15 1927, from his bio

Author Topic: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?  (Read 17045 times)

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Offline uncle bud

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Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
« Reply #30 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.

Offline Richard

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Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
« Reply #31 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
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline waxwing

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Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
« Reply #32 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.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
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Offline Pan

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Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
« Reply #33 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

Offline waxwing

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Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
« Reply #34 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.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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Offline Richard

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Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
« Reply #35 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 ;)
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline Richard

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Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
« Reply #36 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.
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
« Reply #37 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]

Offline Richard

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Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
« Reply #38 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  >:(
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
« Reply #39 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

Offline Pan

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Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
« Reply #40 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.



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


Offline Richard

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Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
« Reply #41 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
« Last Edit: January 15, 2008, 02:00:00 PM by Richard »
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Online Johnm

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Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
« Reply #42 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

Offline waxwing

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Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
« Reply #43 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.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2008, 12:49:52 AM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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Offline Richard

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Re: Eighth Notes--To Swing or Not to Swing?
« Reply #44 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.
(That's enough of that. Ed)

 


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