Make your quarter note swing....

brentcn

Platinum Member
Oh I think it would be pretty useful. It would settle whether or not quarter notes can be swung, which is the basic claim of this thread.

I would love to see anyone here who says they can swing quarter notes step up and record themselves doing just that. Play a few bars of straight quarters on your ride or snare or whatever, and then switch over and do a few bars of swung quarters.

And then we'll have a listen and discuss.

A proper, double-blind experiment would just be inconclusive. Even seasoned pros would see their opinions differ.

Now, we can talk about how to place quarter notes in relation to something else. That would be much more useful.
 

NouveauCliche

Senior Member
Ding ding ding!

Ever played with a newbie bass player with a wonky time feel, who doesn’t quite have the changes down? Your quarter notes, or any notes for that matter, won’t save the groove. Playing with amateurs can be revelatory.



Whatever the outcome, it would be a useless experiment anyway, because no one learns to play music that way.

Not every great player will be great at explaining their own success. So you get these sayings that don’t hold up to logic-based analysis. And that’s okay; I don’t need every drummer to also be a Nobel laureate in order to learn from them. But, for those who aren’t very far along, it’s healthy to scrutinize the adages.

I think you're arguing with the wrong person here - I just said that Gadd did it on burning for buddy and peart made this whole big deal about him swinging with a quarter note.

Take it up with those two lol.
 

Rattlin' Bones

Gold Member
Can anyone explain the difference to me between a swung quarter note and a non swung quarter note?

In my mind the quarter note is played straight and the surrounding notes create the swing feel in relation to the quarter note.

So I'm wrong about that? Yes I can imply a swing feel with only a quarter note. But is it actually swinging? My logic says it's not, because it's dead on the beat, the quarter note. So therein lies confusion for me.

I thought I needed another note, in addition to the quarter note, to achieve an actual, not implied, swing feel
Yeah I'm with ya, Larry.

The quarter lands in the same place every time on a drum. IT'S A QUARTER NOTE. You can either play a quarter note or else not play it. You can also play other notes before or after it. You need other notes around the quarter to swing or shuffle it. Or you need the bass or other instruments. You can only play or not play a quarter note, and you can change the dynamics play it loud or soft. But quarters land in same place everytime on a drum.

Part of the confusion here is playing a drum vs playing a piano or bass or guitar or something else. With the other instruments you can swing the notes because you control, if you will, the sustain. But you don't do that on a drum. I think swinging the quarters is a term to be applied to the other musical instruments more than the drums.

Example: https://cdsguitarblog.wordpress.com...g-quarter-notes-and-yes-that-is-a-real-thing/

Or this: " The biggest lesson I had of this, that really made an impression on me was seeing in about 73-74 a then rare Quincy Jones big band concert. This was right after Harvey Mason had dropped into the scene as the newest, hippest guy going - and so of course, that's who Quincy had playing drums in his sort-of all-star band appearance. And of course, they played Golson's Killer Joe (off of Quincy's Walking in Space album) and did a pretty reasonable length version with a couple of soloists, etc....anyway Harvey just floored me with his purposeful, minimalist approach - in a nutshell, IIRC correctly, except for the ensemble bridge sections, he played straight quarters on the ride, crosstick on 2 and rack tom on 4 relentless throughout - never varying, never wavering - following the dynamics - no, actually driving the band dynamically - with just that relentless one bar pattern. Man it swung its ass off! So that was my lesson in the power, utility and deep, swinging pocket that one can achieve with 1/4's on the ride. Not for all the time - but at the right moments - oh yeah, it swings."

Or this: "A huge light bulb moment for me: 15 or 16 years old, seeing Steve Gadd live, and hearing him swing like nobody's business for a chorus or two of a blues, playing nothing but unison quarter notes: ride, snare, hats, bass drum. Kicking the hell out of the band playing something you'll find on Page 1 of every beginning drum set book - a huge lesson for me."

Conclusion: a quarter note is a quarter note is a quarter note on a drum. It's what the quarter note is played with and what's played around it that makes it - on a drum - swing. We don't have the same capacity to modulate the sustain like piano or bass or guitar etc, which is really where the term "swinging the quarters" comes from.
 

Mr Farkle

Well-known Member
Christian McBride tells a story that Grady Tate played quarters on Killer Joe to keep Ray Brown in check. Said that Ray liked to push. Just a fun side note.

You all are way more down the road of what is swing than I am. I do know that I was confused about the idea of swing when I first started jazz studies. Totally associated it with triplets. I still kind of think quarters are quarters and everything else playing around quarters is “the swing” but then when I’m playing quarters in a jazz context, it feels like I’m the one who is swinging. I guess I still don’t understand it.
 

dcrigger

Senior Member
Or this: " The biggest lesson I had of this, that really made an impression on me was seeing in about 73-74 a then rare Quincy Jones big band concert. This was right after Harvey Mason had dropped into the scene as the newest, hippest guy going - and so of course, that's who Quincy had playing drums in his sort-of all-star band appearance. And of course, they played Golson's Killer Joe (off of Quincy's Walking in Space album) and did a pretty reasonable length version with a couple of soloists, etc....anyway Harvey just floored me with his purposeful, minimalist approach - in a nutshell, IIRC correctly, except for the ensemble bridge sections, he played straight quarters on the ride, crosstick on 2 and rack tom on 4 relentless throughout - never varying, never wavering - following the dynamics - no, actually driving the band dynamically - with just that relentless one bar pattern. Man it swung its ass off! So that was my lesson in the power, utility and deep, swinging pocket that one can achieve with 1/4's on the ride. Not for all the time - but at the right moments - oh yeah, it swings."
Well how cool is this?? I was about to chime in on this topic and once again, share my epiphany moment featuring Harvey Mason with Quincy Jones (at Disneyland of all places!!!) When I saw that someone obviously had a similar experience and best me to the post... though while reading I realized... maybe not. So I headed over to DFO and checked.... and I was "lo and behold"... this was something I wrote back in 2011 (and yes, it is totally cool that Rattlin' Bones shared it).

Personally I think we miss the point when we get too hung up on the "either/or" of this topic. Of course, "swung 1/8th's" are essential to swing music... but that doesn't negate the lessons in swinging that can be had from no more than 1/4 notes.

To hear folks say that "well, 1/4's are just 1/4's" - How can a swing feel be expressed from just 1/4's? Which is likely true for a drummer playing by themselves. But playing by ourselves probably accounts for less than 1% of jazz playing. It is how we sound while playing with others and how we make others sound that determines how we, as drummers, are actually judged.

And while being able to play with a good feel by ourselves goes a long way to preparing us to play with others - there's still more to it than just simply sticking what we do by ourselves into an ensemble. Actually it is when we're placed in an ensemble that the fun really begins. All of the adjusting, meshing, supporting and blending in... So to do all of that and have the overall effect swing.... Now, that's the work of a swinging drummer.

I mean I love the solo aspects of our instrument - but at the end of day, the drum set is an ensemble instrument... our success or failure lies completely in how good we make our ensembles feel.

So yes, seeing Harvey - hot off of Headhunters.... playing that same bar - over and over - for I don't know, like seven or eight minutes at least... driving the band through possibly the most swinging performance I had ever heard was a totally revelation. (And over the previous few years, I had heard most every national big band play in that very park, many on that same stage - Basie, Ellington, Rich, Herman, Kenton, James, Ellis).

Additional thought.... in various posts, folks talk of 1/4's being straight and unwavering... which in jazz is basically true. But that neglects thinking about dynamics, accents... not hit 'em over the head accents.... just ever so slight emphasizes on 2 and 4 or just on one, or 1 and 3 - creating subtle, but very different feels. And then of course there's where the drummers places his 1/4 note against the 1/4's of others.

Quarters may be straight and unwavering - but there's still a lot of art involved, and choices as to how to play them to make the music swing as hard as it can.
 

JimmyM

Platinum Member
Christian McBride tells a story that Grady Tate played quarters on Killer Joe to keep Ray Brown in check. Said that Ray liked to push. Just a fun side note.

You all are way more down the road of what is swing than I am. I do know that I was confused about the idea of swing when I first started jazz studies. Totally associated it with triplets. I still kind of think quarters are quarters and everything else playing around quarters is “the swing” but then when I’m playing quarters in a jazz context, it feels like I’m the one who is swinging. I guess I still don’t understand it.
The beauty thing is you don't have to understand it. I don't understand it either. I just go with the flow.

But I will say this...jazz musicians think they're truly special and have a way deeper understanding of music than everyone else :D Sorry, but it's true. And in a lot of cases, they're right. So they use stuff like this to separate the serious jazzers from the not-so-serious jazzers, of which I'm in the latter category. Of course swing is based on a triplet feel. Of course quarter notes on the beat are the same in jazz as they are in 4 on the floor. But to the serious jazz musician, they're not, know what I mean, nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more?

And it works in reverse, as anyone who's ever heard your stone cold serious jazz musicians slumming on an AC/DC tune can attest. So don't over-complicate it. It's the "When in Rome" policy. But for some strange reason, it works.
 

Huw Owens

Active Member
FWIW I don't think of swing vs straight, but rather feels good vs feels stiff (behave!)

we've all heard someone play all the right notes but just sound stiff, haven't we? Swing is the opposite. Call it groove if you like...

;)
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
I think you're arguing with the wrong person here - I just said that Gadd did it on burning for buddy and peart made this whole big deal about him swinging with a quarter note.

Take it up with those two lol.

My last paragraph does. Masterful players can be (and often are) not great at explaining things. Teaching ability doesn’t always follow performance ability. To makes matters even worse, journalists and filmmakers are typically looking for memorable quotes, ahead of educational content.

WRT Gadd and Peart, “quarter notes that swing” almost certainly refers to their placement in time, against the rest of the band.

My quibble isn’t with this. It’s when musicians start arguing that quarter notes, by themselves alone, swing. It’s useless at best, and ridiculous at worse. There needs to be some musical context. And that’s why we hold up the example of Quincy’s Killer Joe, and not just a string of quarter notes where the drummer is shaking, or not shaking, their body.
 

GetAgrippa

Diamond Member
If you space the quarter note exactly same but just alter where you hit cymbal that will change our perception of quarter note. So if I just ping, ping, ping, ping on edge that's one sound and if I hit edge then bell it could be ping, ding, ping, ding, or more triplet feel ping, ding, ding, ding. It's all quarters in space and time-just each note sounds different and so will our perception of it. Just like playing hats-I can play quarter notes closed but if I open and close in relation to strokes it will completely change texture of sound or you can hear melody if they follow music (but it's all quarter notes just differs in accents that highlight a melody. Then sometimes I think it's the slight micro-timing of slightly ahead or behind all changes our perception. It's basically acoustic hearing trickery isn't it? We hear it contextually and texturally even though the notes transcribed look the same.
Damn that's pretty close to a cogent argument-I must be tripping.
 

Rock Salad

Junior Member
I notice that many of the players who offer this piece of advice are seasoned masters. And their stories of learning to appreciate this focus on the quarter are of a time when they were playing professionally at a pretty high level already.
Do you offer this advice to a novice musician? Or are you offering it for more experienced players to help them level up?

p.s. triplets can be not swinging too
 

MG1127

Active Member
I notice that many of the players who offer this piece of advice are seasoned masters. And their stories of learning to appreciate this focus on the quarter are of a time when they were playing professionally at a pretty high level already.
Do you offer this advice to a novice musician? Or are you offering it for more experienced players to help them level up?

p.s. triplets can be not swinging too
I offer it to anyone with the desire to have a mature feel.

once you understand how to approach a quarter note this way and create those desirable air pockets players with seasoned ears will notice and want you to accompany them.

This isn't something you just ask someone to do and they say "ok" and do it

sometimes it takes a very long time to comprehend

That is why I'm in no way surprised at the majority of responses in this thread
 

Rattlin' Bones

Gold Member
Well how cool is this?? I was about to chime in on this topic and once again, share my epiphany moment featuring Harvey Mason with Quincy Jones (at Disneyland of all places!!!) When I saw that someone obviously had a similar experience and best me to the post... though while reading I realized... maybe not. So I headed over to DFO and checked.... and I was "lo and behold"... this was something I wrote back in 2011 (and yes, it is totally cool that Rattlin' Bones shared it).

Personally I think we miss the point when we get too hung up on the "either/or" of this topic. Of course, "swung 1/8th's" are essential to swing music... but that doesn't negate the lessons in swinging that can be had from no more than 1/4 notes.

To hear folks say that "well, 1/4's are just 1/4's" - How can a swing feel be expressed from just 1/4's? Which is likely true for a drummer playing by themselves. But playing by ourselves probably accounts for less than 1% of jazz playing. It is how we sound while playing with others and how we make others sound that determines how we, as drummers, are actually judged.

And while being able to play with a good feel by ourselves goes a long way to preparing us to play with others - there's still more to it than just simply sticking what we do by ourselves into an ensemble. Actually it is when we're placed in an ensemble that the fun really begins. All of the adjusting, meshing, supporting and blending in... So to do all of that and have the overall effect swing.... Now, that's the work of a swinging drummer.

I mean I love the solo aspects of our instrument - but at the end of day, the drum set is an ensemble instrument... our success or failure lies completely in how good we make our ensembles feel.

So yes, seeing Harvey - hot off of Headhunters.... playing that same bar - over and over - for I don't know, like seven or eight minutes at least... driving the band through possibly the most swinging performance I had ever heard was a totally revelation. (And over the previous few years, I had heard most every national big band play in that very park, many on that same stage - Basie, Ellington, Rich, Herman, Kenton, James, Ellis).

Additional thought.... in various posts, folks talk of 1/4's being straight and unwavering... which in jazz is basically true. But that neglects thinking about dynamics, accents... not hit 'em over the head accents.... just ever so slight emphasizes on 2 and 4 or just on one, or 1 and 3 - creating subtle, but very different feels. And then of course there's where the drummers places his 1/4 note against the 1/4's of others.

Quarters may be straight and unwavering - but there's still a lot of art involved, and choices as to how to play them to make the music swing as hard as it can.
Wow that's you I quoted. Cool!!!

I also saw a lotta great acts at Disneyworld in the 70's. But acts I saw were more pop and rock. Three Dog Night. Olivia Newton John. Helen Reddy. Anne Murray. All at the Tomorrowland stage where the stage would rise up from under the ground. I think it was called The Coca Cola Stage in Tomorrowland maybe? I do recall some Big Swing Bands, but at the time I was a teenager and that wasn't my thing.

You're right about quarters played all alone. Like challenge to record playing straight quarters vs swinging them and trying to determine by listening. Of course they'll sound virtually the same other than dynamics, but they're not played in that context.

When I played Killer Joe with last group I was with, they had a really hard time with the bridge so that's where I played "swung quarters".

I think some people here were misinterpreting swinging quarters, which for drums is a quite different concept and in some ways doesn't fit as well as other instruments because the idea is more derived from the other instruments than the drum. Your post does best to actually explain it, DCRigger. Thanks!
 
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NouveauCliche

Senior Member
WRT Gadd and Peart, “quarter notes that swing” almost certainly refers to their placement in time, against the rest of the band.

That's basically what I said.

I guess my if you're going to continue to soap box - at least detach my posts from it plsssss.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
That's basically what I said.

I guess my if you're going to continue to soap box - at least detach my posts from it plsssss.

My apologies! Wasn’t trying to argue with you, or correct you in any way. Just trying to add to your point. This discussion is so difficult because the terms were so terribly defined at the outset. I’m trying to add clarity, not soapbox.

I don’t know which quote of yours to remove.
 

Rock Salad

Junior Member
I worked on playing quarter notes (mostly quarters, some occasional +'s) for about an hour yesterday and same today. In order for it to feel groovy/swinging I had to be thinking and feeling subdivisions even though I wasn't playing them. Did them at a nice easy tempo (no clicker) around 100 bpm- not too taxing to imagine a shuffle or sixteenth groove there. But I still made mistakes and played a few sour notes! Practice practice practice
 

ColdFusion

Active Member
This totally turned into a zenlike 'does a tree falling in the woods?' kind of conversation. Or rather 'does a quarter note make a jazzy sound if there are no eighth notes around to hear it?', lol.

Get your quarter note to swing!...

...Get your quarter note to swing like this and everything else will fall into place.

Think about what your body is doing in between the notes ... the approach ... create those air pockets

This is the part that sounds good and intuitive to jazz players. This is the vibe inside, the pocket that locks in with the music. But as others have granted, it's intuitive without being "logical" or "arithmetical".

So the second question that it gave rise to is, 'is there a discernable jazzy quality to quarter notes played this way, vs. quarters played with say, a hidden latin feel underneath?' When framed like this it's suddenly not so clear.

All these responses and rebuttals have been sensible, and I can't even begin to expand upon all the great points or I'd be here all day.
But I do strongly agree with the spirit of the OP's point.
I think it's okay to tell a jazz drumming student that they don't have to play only the skip note version of the pattern in order to be internalizing good jazzy timekeeping. If you are really feeling the swing, the vibe inside, your quarters will lock in with the tastiest jazz music.

I'm not sure that if we recorded someone playing a swinging quarter with a metronome and someone playing a "straight" quarter that we could tell the difference.

I am open to the fact that we might though!
I would love to see anyone here who says they can swing quarter notes step up and record themselves doing just that. Play a few bars of straight quarters on your ride or snare or whatever, and then switch over and do a few bars of swung quarters.

And then we'll have a listen and discuss.

I was thinking about this thread last night and decided to investigate this idea with a little recording. I too was curious if it could be done, so I was considering just playing quarter notes only and then indicating in the text what feel I was going for. But IMO that isn't quite enough information.

So what I did is play it like a bossa-to-jazz transition groove. The theme is quarter note ride cymbal throughout, at 125 bpm. First quarter notes with a straight 8 underlying feel, then telegraphing into the swinging section, etc. I did employ skip notes and fills on both the straight and swung parts, with the quarter notes in question playing throughout. I felt it was important to mark the feel, even though it's not exactly what we are investigating.

As some have mentioned, part of this discussion is happening in a theoretical vacuum.
This example is not meant to settle anything, but I too was wondering if we could cobble together something 'scientific-ish' to look at. 👨‍🔬

 
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Matt Suda

Member
Christian McBride tells a story that Grady Tate played quarters on Killer Joe to keep Ray Brown in check. Said that Ray liked to push. Just a fun side note.

You all are way more down the road of what is swing than I am. I do know that I was confused about the idea of swing when I first started jazz studies. Totally associated it with triplets. I still kind of think quarters are quarters and everything else playing around quarters is “the swing” but then when I’m playing quarters in a jazz context, it feels like I’m the one who is swinging. I guess I still don’t understand it.

I’m wondering if you’ve also seen this video of McBride and Hutchinson talking about tempo:

Anyway, I think I’m with you on some of these jazz concepts. It takes a few passes for me to get it, but it’s a fun journey.
 
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