Piano Player World

Swing Phrasing on Piano

swing phrasingSwing phrasing on piano is most often encountered in jazz, swing and bebop music. Overall, it is less commonly found in jazz music, but heavily used in most swing and bebop music. These are not the only styles of music where it can be found. Classical, blues and rock music also can use this type of phrasing.

The swing phrasing achieves the feeling of swinging by altering the duration of notes in the song. It creates a unique pattern compared to songs based around straight eighth note phrasing.

Swing phrasing in music changes the value of notes when used. Even though the song is written as eighth notes, the actual rhythm is based around triplet eight notes. Instead of dividing each beat into two parts, it is divided into three when using swing phrasing on piano.

The first eighth note is the equivalent of two triplet eighth notes, so it takes up two thirds of each beat. The second eighth note is a single triplet eighth note, taking up a third of the each beat. The change in the note durations is what gives swing phrasing that actual swinging feel to it.

Bass lines in swing phrasing on piano often times are not going to actually be swing notes. Instead, it is very common for the bass line to consist of only quarter notes for the entire song. The swing phrasing does not change the duration of quarter notes as it does with half notes.

The bass lines in swing phrasing are usually very simple to avoid detracting from the actual swing line. The drum work and other rhythm instruments in swing songs can follow this same pattern.

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note durationsThe change in the duration of notes has a substantial impact on how melody lines sound. The last note of each beat is more closely tied to the first note of the same beat then it is to the first note in its same beat. As a result, the notes are written with this in mind.

Changing notes at the start of the beat creates a feeling of movement along with the swing phrasing. It is a very different feeling than you would get playing the same exact notes as eighth notes. Something as simple as ascending straight up the scale sounds much more interesting in swing phrasing then it would normally sound.

Swing phrasing on piano is a niche technique for many pianists. While it can appear in almost any genre, it is rarely used outside jazz, bebop and swing music. Some artists in other genres might use it heavily, but on a whole it is not very common. However, even though it is might not be a technique used regularly, it is worth developing.

Swing phrasing mostly revolves around playing notes in a triplet feel. Playing songs with swing phrasing might not be very common, but triplet notes appear frequently. You should be able to play these notes comfortably, which results in the ability to easily play swing phrasing. As a result, this technique can help you with other areas of your piano playing.

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