Swinging with a metronome

TimWilson

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On the 3rd page of a thread about uke jams, our man @Yukio posted one of the most amazing videos I've ever seen, completely changing everything I'd ever thought about using a metronome. It made perfect sense in that context (here's the post), but after watching it a couple of times, I wanted to bring it to the top of its own thread so that we can talk about the video itself, metronomes, swinging, and all that good stuff.

This video jumped out at me so much because metronome is supposedly the opposite of swinging, right? On. (Click) The. (Click) Beat. (Click) The better you are at using the metronome, the more you'll be ON the beat, right? Well, says our man @Yukio, that ain't necessarily so. The magic begins when you align the clicks to beats 2 and 4, rather than 1 and 3. I'll let him take it from here.



Of course I'm interested in hearing more broadly about swinging, metronomes, and the like, but I'm ESPECIALLY interested in having you watch the video to see if it feels as potentially fruitful for your own playing as I'm finding it for mine. (And yes, I prefer physical metronomes to virtual ones, but whatever works for you is fine by me!)
 
What I find interesting is that you can swing, pause, do a quick lick, vamp, or turn-around ...whatever, but at some point you must rejoin on the correct beat of a phrase or risk losing the listener. The 'nome will help guide you there. Gotta love that back-beat.
 
Yes, just another reason to like @Yukio !
Although, I admit, I haven't been playing against a beat lately, I have put in my time (pun intended). Here's a few of my beat boxes.
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Great instructional and motivational video @Yukio . :)
 
What I find interesting is that you can swing, pause, do a quick lick, vamp, or turn-around ...whatever, but at some point you must rejoin on the correct beat of a phrase or risk losing the listener.

That's the thing. There's TEMPO, and there's BEAT. The metronome can help you lock in the TEMPO, leaving you free to push and pull the beat at will.

Which means that you don't HAVE to use the metronome to lock you into playing on the beat. You want to swing? Swing! Just don't use it as an excuse to muddy the tempo.

Unless you want to. LOL Do what you want. Nobody else is listening. If it's good enough for you, it's good enough! I do want to do better, but the areas that I want to improve in might not be the ones you feel need work in your own playing.

One thing I've taken from this exercise is that I think I have a better than usual sense of rhythm, but only when it comes to straight time. I've got enough to keep in my head without trying to swing....but having the metronome means that I don't have to keep time for myself. It's not 100% happening for me yet, but I feel like leaning on the metronome this way has the potential to free up just enough mental cycles to let me experiment with pushing and pulling against the beat, and that, I love!
 
I don't really think it matters if you count the metronome on the 1 and 3 or the 2 and 4. Or the 1 2 3 4, for that matter. If you can swing, you can swing equally well each way. Either way, it's a nice tutorial.
 
I’ll have to watch this later, I don’t have time today, but I’m glad you posted it. I’ve been trying to get the hang of playing with a metronome and was finding it a little too mechanical.
 
I’ll have to watch this later, I don’t have time today, but I’m glad you posted it. I’ve been trying to get the hang of playing with a metronome and was finding it a little too mechanical.
I think the ideas presented in the videos may be helpful in this regard. I hope so, @emba
 
What I find interesting is that you can swing, pause, do a quick lick, vamp, or turn-around ...whatever, but at some point you must rejoin on the correct beat of a phrase or risk losing the listener. The 'nome will help guide you there. Gotta love that back-beat.
Yup, @Wiggy Gotta love that back-beat.
 
Here is a very interesting question: WHAT IS SWING?
A lot of people have attempted to answer this question, but a really good answer proves to be somewhat elusive.
When I try to tell people what swing is, my flip answer is, "making quarter-notes groove." Even though it is a flip answer, there is a lot of truth in there. Four quarter-notes to the bar is the most elementary rhythm pattern there is, yet four-to-the-bar is fundamental to swing. Making those four quarter-notes sound cool, breezy, and exciting is the way I like to think about it.
I'd love to hear how other people go about explaining swing rhythm.
 
Turn your metronome into a very basic drum machine.

Get things like empty cans and wooden cigar boxes.

Put the metronome on or in them and see if you can get a more interesting noise. A piece of vibrating stuff like aluminium foil can also add some interest, if you can get it to vibrate with the metronome.
I sometimes mic the metronome and run it through a combination of delay and reverb to get a drum machine feel.
 
@Yukio great videos and explanation. I think the terms swing, swung and shuffle get confused, along with syncopation. I’ve heard a lot of ukulele groups get stuck on the triplet feel shuffle for their island strum, and I wonder if it’s because it’s harder to play straight while strumming both up and down than it is to give it some asymmetry.
 
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Before I watched Yukio's video, I imagined that he would actually make it swing by putting something under one side of the metronome, thereby interfering with the equal timing and rushing every other beat. It's a pretty fun thing to do, worth an experiment.
 
Here is a very interesting question: WHAT IS SWING?
A lot of people have attempted to answer this question, but a really good answer proves to be somewhat elusive.
When I try to tell people what swing is, my flip answer is, "making quarter-notes groove." Even though it is a flip answer, there is a lot of truth in there. Four quarter-notes to the bar is the most elementary rhythm pattern there is, yet four-to-the-bar is fundamental to swing. Making those four quarter-notes sound cool, breezy, and exciting is the way I like to think about it.
I'd love to hear how other people go about explaining swing rhythm.

For me, swing rhythm begins when the four notes (beats) in a measure are expressed (played) as follows:

First note is held for one and a half beats; Second note is held for half a beat.
Third note is held for one and a half beats; Fourth note is held for half a beat.

The total number of full beats to the bar is still four, but the long/short, long/short playing pattern establishes the basis for the swing rhythm. When you start to feel it in your body (or hear it in your head), your playing will become more nuanced. And that’s when the swing rhythm really begins.

From a very young age, I grew up listening to a lot of my parents swing dance music. As a result, it became a very comfortable rhythmic style for me when I began playing musical instruments. To this day, if I have been struggling with a piece of music written in straight time, I will often start playing it in swing rhythm instead ~ and almost immediately, the melody starts to flow more easily under my fingers. Go figure.

I probably didn’t explain swing rhythm very well ~ but I do know that I love it to bits, and just couldn’t help but chime in on the conversation. :)
 
For me, swing rhythm begins when the four notes (beats) in a measure are expressed (played) as follows:

First note is held for one and a half beats; Second note is held for half a beat.
Third note is held for one and a half beats; Fourth note is held for half a beat.

The total number of full beats to the bar is still four, but the long/short, long/short playing pattern establishes the basis for the swing rhythm. When you start to feel it in your body (or hear it in your head), your playing will become more nuanced. And that’s when the swing rhythm really begins.

From a very young age, I grew up listening to a lot of my parents swing dance music. As a result, it became a very comfortable rhythmic style for me when I began playing musical instruments. To this day, if I have been struggling with a piece of music written in straight time, I will often start playing it in swing rhythm instead ~ and almost immediately, the melody starts to flow more easily under my fingers. Go figure.

I probably didn’t explain swing rhythm very well ~ but I do know that I love it to bits, and just couldn’t help but chime in on the conversation. :)
Thank you very much for chiming in on the conversation, @Jan D. I think what you wrote was very good, indeed. The first part of your explanation is the usual way that swing gets notated in sheet music. They will often write at the top of the page in small print that four quarter notes equals a dotted quarter, eighth, dotted quarter, eighth note in this fashion. This has never been a wholly acceptable equivalence because it is over exaggerated and sounds more like a very strict shuffle.

That is why the second part of your explanation is so good: You let the rhythm become more nuanced and locate the rhythm in the feeling you developed when listening to all those great records from your parent's record collection. You embody the flow and feel of that rhythm and let it swing. :cool:
 
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