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Play Swing Style On The Piano

Updated on June 29, 2014
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JohnMello is a writer, composer, musician and the author of books for children and adults.

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What "Swing" Means

Whenever you hear the word swing in relation to piano music, you know it relates to the rhythm of the piece.

Swing refers to a style of playing where eighth notes are "swung" -- in other words, they're not played straight, as in classical music.

According to Wikipedia:

A "swung note" or "shuffle note" is a performance practice, mainly in jazz-influenced music, in which some notes with equal written time values are performed with unequal durations, usually as alternating long and short.


Swing is Lazy

When you swing a piece of music, the first note is played a bit longer and the next a bit shorter. This has the effect of almost making the music sound lazy, and adds what is known as a groove to the rhythm. In terms of sound, it's almost the same as playing triplets and leaving out the middle note.

Below you can see two graphics that demosntrate the idea. The first is a piece of music written out in straight eighth notes, with the instruction "Swing" above it. The second is the same piece of music as it would actually be performed, with the straight notes swung.


Swing Instruction

How It's Played

Swing Examples

You can hear examples of swing in all kinds of music, from Big Band numbers like "In The Mood" to songs such as "My Baby Just Cares for Me" as in the video below. Listen to the piano and the drums at the beginning; they’re really swinging for all they’re worth.


Perfect for Chilling Out

My short piano piece Just Chillin' (http://www.scoreexchange.com/scores/143350.html) is also an example of swing. Follow the link to see, hear, and print the music.

Notice in the excerpt below how the eighth notes look the same as they would in a classical piece, but I've included the instruction "Swing it!" at the beginning of the score. That tells performers to "swing" the eighth notes instead of playing them straight, giving them that laid back, jazzy feel.


Swing is also known as swing jazz, although the word "swing" applies in exactly the same way regardless of the kind of music you use it in.

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    • JohnMello profile image
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      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Hi Joe... if you go to the Score Exchange page, there's an audio file to listen to, and a slight alteration to the original score. Cheers!

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Hi Joecc. I'll have a look and upload it if I can. Cheers!

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      joecc 4 years ago

      hi do you have audio for this?

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Thanks vocalcoach. Glad you liked it!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Very good hub on how to play swing!