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What Makes 'Swing'?

Ebbie 03 Jul 12 - 02:16 AM
Doug Chadwick 03 Jul 12 - 03:11 AM
GUEST,Stan 03 Jul 12 - 05:14 AM
GUEST,leeneia 03 Jul 12 - 11:23 AM
Owen Woodson 03 Jul 12 - 12:14 PM
Ebbie 03 Jul 12 - 01:27 PM
GUEST,leeneia 03 Jul 12 - 03:20 PM
GUEST,Stim 03 Jul 12 - 03:25 PM
Will Fly 03 Jul 12 - 03:28 PM
GUEST,leeneia 03 Jul 12 - 05:49 PM
GUEST,leeneia 03 Jul 12 - 06:02 PM
GUEST,Grishka 04 Jul 12 - 05:07 AM
GUEST,Stan 04 Jul 12 - 09:59 AM
GUEST 04 Jul 12 - 10:08 AM
GUEST,Stim 05 Jul 12 - 01:21 AM
GUEST 05 Jul 12 - 11:45 AM
GUEST,Stim 05 Jul 12 - 11:46 AM
Ebbie 05 Jul 12 - 09:09 PM
JohnInKansas 06 Jul 12 - 01:33 PM
Stringsinger 06 Jul 12 - 05:02 PM
GUEST,Stim 06 Jul 12 - 11:26 PM
GUEST,Stan 07 Jul 12 - 06:05 AM
GUEST,Stim 07 Jul 12 - 01:57 PM
GUEST,Stan 08 Jul 12 - 06:44 PM
GUEST,Stim 08 Jul 12 - 07:31 PM
GUEST,Stan 08 Jul 12 - 11:14 PM
Stringsinger 09 Jul 12 - 02:17 PM
GUEST,Stim 09 Jul 12 - 02:34 PM
GUEST,Stim 09 Jul 12 - 04:14 PM
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Subject: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: Ebbie
Date: 03 Jul 12 - 02:16 AM

I've been curious about this for some time- what is it that makes the genre of 'swing'? Is it in the treatment of a tune, i.e. bended notes, pull-offs and hammer-ons, or is it in the strum, like a brush back or a varying stroke or is it a specific type of tune?

My own strum is fairly rigid most of the time, probably more suited to bluegrass than to a sweet love song. I think it's in my wrist or maybe it is in the way I hold a pick? Once in awhile there is a tune where I "hear" a brushiness and I can do it if I *hear* it.

Originally, I think, swing stems from the era of big bands; I can imagine that brass swings.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 03 Jul 12 - 03:11 AM

I remember seeing a documentary on TV where two of Fats Waller's songs were compared, one from around 1930 and the other about five years later. In the first, the melody was very much on the beat; in the second, the melody lagged the main beat by just a shade. The development was described as being the introduction of swing. It gave a laid-back feel without the full syncopation of ragtime.

The alternative, where the melody leads the main beat by just a shade was demonstrated in the driving Latin music of Cuba which is almost impossible not to dance to.

DC


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST,Stan
Date: 03 Jul 12 - 05:14 AM

Two things occur to me here. First is that the difference between a straight and a swung rhythm is in the way beats are subdivided.

In a straight rhythm beats are divided in halves, as in

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +.

In a swung rhythm beats are divided into three parts, as in

1 + + 2 + + 3 + + 4 + +

If you are strumming these you would strum the first one down on the number and up on the +. The second one you would strum down on the number, stay down on the first + and strum up on the last +.

The other thing is syncopation. This is done by playing a note one division of the beat before it is expected.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 03 Jul 12 - 11:23 AM

I've looked into this before, and I've noticed two things. 1) Every expert has a different definition. 2) Each one acts like his is the only correct one.

However, I've been watching videos of swing dance from old movies, such as this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHANNkKBSNU&feature=related

You're probably familiar with the term Boom-chick for a strum. I believe the heart of swing is that the accompaniment doesn't go:

BOOM-chick BOOM-chick, it goes:

chick-BOOM, chick-BOOM.

(Close your eyes and listen to the drums.) This seems really obvious at 6 minutes, where there's clapping.

However, depending on what I had for breakfast, it seems like it isn't actually doing that. Listen, and see what you think. Sometimes the musicians just get tired, I think, and they fall into a simplistic boom-boom-boom-boom.

While the chick-BOOM goes on, the melody instruments indulge in rests, ties, offbeats, syncopation, super-high solos, blue notes, improvisation and whatever else they can think of. Trying to define swing by listing the things they have thought of since 1930 is enough to make your head swim. Besides, many other styles of music use those same features.
====================
Meanwhile, the Fiddler's Fake Book has something interesting to say. Talking about Country Rag, it says "The country rag is always played in swing eighth-notes." Then it has an example.

Got a pencil?

Pretend you are writing down one measure of music in 4/4 time. Write a quarter followed by an eighth. Do this till you have four of each. That's too many, right?

Now make triplets of them. Put a horizonal bar under (or over) each of the four sets and write a "3" in the middle of the horizontal bar. This means "These two notes equal one beat."

I looked at that and thought "How the heck is that supposed to sound?" Then I had an idea. I would make a MIDI of it. Let's see if Joe's around and can post MIDI's to listen to.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 03 Jul 12 - 12:14 PM

I once tried to find a working definition of swing and couldn't. All the jazz textbooks I consulted made vague noises about it being something to do with offbeats and rhythm, but couldn't come up with anything more definite.

Still, like Fats Waller said, "If you gotta ask, you ain't got it".


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: Ebbie
Date: 03 Jul 12 - 01:27 PM

Hey! This is interesting. I've picked up something new from each of you. I'd love to hear further discussion.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 03 Jul 12 - 03:20 PM

I sent some MIDI's to Joe. We'll see. Last time I sent some, Joe was on a trip, so it didn't work out. I hope this time there will soon be something to listen to.
==============
"If you gotta ask, you ain't got it".

Sorry, Owen. I think that's pure baloney. People have been teaching one another different musical styles for centuries.   That's how the styles survive.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 03 Jul 12 - 03:25 PM

On thing to remember about "swing" is that you already know it. The reason for that is simple: swing is the underlying beat for popular music/dance music for about the last eighty years, and is there in all our "traditional" genres, like blues, bluegrass old time, and such.

The explanations above are good, but I'll tell you what they told me when I was learning to read jazz arrangements:

Jazz/Swing is a compound meter, and each beat, represented by a quarter note, is divided into triplets.

Just play all the quarter notes staccato, and play all the eighth notes as if each pair was a dotted eighth and a sixteenth note (meaning that each pair is a triplet).

The other notes take care of themselves.


Remember the phrase "Beat me, Daddy, Eight to the Bar!"? That's "Boogie-woogie" which is eight eighth notes, in that dotted eighth
sixteenth pattern I explained--If it makes it easier, think'
"Dooby-dooby-dooby-dooby".

It's really important to have that staccato quarter note thing happening, though--everything else bounces off of that..


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: Will Fly
Date: 03 Jul 12 - 03:28 PM

Listen to this:

Django Reinhardt - "Minor Swing"

Four to the bar, with a different emphasis on the 1st/3rd and 2nd/4th beats of the bar - slightly more "push" on the 2nd/4th beats.

A small definition of "swing" - but it's a start...


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 03 Jul 12 - 05:49 PM

Hi, Stim. You said, "play all the eighth notes as if each pair was a dotted eighth and a sixteenth note (meaning that each pair is a triplet)."

Yep, I agree. When I was fooling around with MIDI, I made a set of notes in the triplet pattern described above, and I made another set that was a dotted eighth followed by a sixteenth. When I played them simultaneously, I couldn't hear a difference. I even slowed the tempo down to 40, and they remained the same.

I've been playing the Dill Pickle Rag on the piano, and I finally realized that the odd-numbered eighth notes are almost a whole note. That helped me make it swing, although at my present tempo the swing is more like a lurch.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 03 Jul 12 - 06:02 PM

Will, that's what I said. Not BOOM-chick, but chick-BOOM. You and I have just used different systems for saying the same thing.

Meanwhile, the violin sails along, hardly seeming to pay any attention to the rhythm. But I'm sure it only SEEMS that way.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 04 Jul 12 - 05:07 AM

No dotted eighths (3:1) in swing rhythm. For slow pieces ("ballads"), the relation is 2:1 (as in triplets), faster pieces tend to something like 3:2.

If you observe this and add some syncopation, you still ain't got that swing. Like other (imaginary) dance rhythms, such as waltz or rumba, there is a complex relation to muscle tension and brain waves.

For a rhythm to mean "a thing", it must be viewed in a larger context. Often a whole piece of music can be said to have "it" or not.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST,Stan
Date: 04 Jul 12 - 09:59 AM

Understanding swing is not a matter of opinion. It's clearly defined in the curriculum of the Associated Boards of the Royal School of Music (ABRSM). The problem is they don't call it swing. They define two types of rhythm. Simple Time, which we can call straight rhythm, and Compound Time which gets called swing. Unfortunately not all Compound Time is called swing. Jigs and slip jigs are Compound Time (each beat divides into three). Swung hornpipes are also Compound Time, straight hornpipes are not. Four beats in Compound Time should be written in 12/8 time. This is more difficult to both write and read than 4/4 time, so the use of 'forced' triplets in 4/4 is an attempt to simplify (which of course leads to more confusion to people who are not comfortable with notation).

The dotted eighth followed by a sixteenth is another attempt at writing swing in 4/4 time. To me it sounds different to 12/8 but maybe to others it doesn't.

Other ways of indicating swing in 4/4 time include two linked 1/8th notes, an equals sign followed by a triplet in 8th notes above the score or something like the word 'lively' in the same place.

Pretty much all the responses posted here are saying the same thing. Most early jazz music was played with swing. If you can get the rhythmic feel in that music you will get what you want. Notation is notoriously inadequate when it comes across subtlety in music rhythms. Hence the importance of feeling and ears. Start feeling your ears folks.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Jul 12 - 10:08 AM

The genre of 'swing' seems mostly related to the era of big bands in the 1940s. Personally I prefer the earlier forms of jazz. For me the big bands don't swing, they lurch. The earlier music is far lighter and livelier. Maybe it's to do with size.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 01:21 AM

Just to clarify, the jazz convention is for playing written eighth notes with a triplet pulse, long-short, instead of as written. How what you *actually* play would look on the page depends on your time signature.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 11:45 AM

Important Point Here!

When Stan talks about the difference between a swing beat and a straight beat up above, he is right on, but that doesn't mean that the person keeping the rhythm(the rhythm guitar player, for instance) plays the"swing" beat. In order for swing to "swing", the rhythm player *must* play a straight beat.

The reason for this is that the "swing feel" is created by the contrast between the straight beat and the syncopated beat, which is usually carried by other voices, which could be soloists or, as is characteristic in "Big Band" arrangements, a "call and response" between the reed section and the brass section.

Ragtime, Jazz, Swing, Dixieland, Bebop, Boogie Woogie, Rock'n'Roll, Rhythm and Blues, all work with the same ideas, but develop them to different degrees.

The clipped straight four beat that propels a 20's dance arrangement would have been played by banjo, bass drum, with tubas coming in on the 1 and 3rd beat, with the syncopation happening in the melody. A New Orleans style band might have have had a clarinet playing against the melody.

A Big Band arrangement might have taken the melody and the clarinet part and had trombones and saxes play them, with bass, guitar, and drums handling the beat. A bebop combo might have that four beat only played on the snare, with the syncopated part all in the solo instruments...

Boogie Woogie would have put the syncopation in the bottom, with piano and bass. In some blues, the 4 beat wouldn't even be played, just implied, with a soloist only playing the syncopated part.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 11:46 AM

That was me. With all I had to say, I forgot my name. Sorry.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: Ebbie
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 09:09 PM

"In order for swing to "swing", the rhythm player *must* play a straight beat."

This much I do understand. Thanks, guys (and gals).


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 01:33 PM

But "the rhythm player must play a straight beat" is FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG in terms of the origins and practice of swing.

Swing evolved from the smaller bands where the first jazz, ragtime, and a few other genres became popular, in response to the popularity of mass dances in large halls. If the bands weren't quite "full orchestras" they were at least dominated by the "big bands."

The essential core of "swing" is that it's FOR BALLROOM DANCING, and introduced - and amplified - the concept of having the band "follow the dancers" rather than the other way 'round.

At it's high point, the many and varied "ballroom steps" and styles that were popular required different rhythms and timings, but the popularity of dips, glides, turns, and other embellishments by the dancers mandated that the phrasing of the music follow what the dancers did. The band did a lot of "holds" (fermati?). A fixed, steady beat is NOT COMPATIBLE with ballroom dancing, and a rigid beat makes dancers fall down.

There were numerous "variety" numbers that were popular with the swing bands, in which a more rigid metre was used, but the core pieces were those that "swung with the dance." Numbers that became widely familiar often settled into fairly routine performances where the musicians knew where to "drag-n-catch up" and the dancers knew where they should expect "room for a dip/slide/twirl" so things got a little easier for both, but for dancers working to a new piece, or a band working with a new audience, "following the dance" was a cooperative endeavor for both - and "how to do it right ain't written on any score, because it's different every time if you've got a couple of good dancers trying to have fun.

For what was the defining characteristic of swing, it was the "phrasing" and NOT "the beat."

Since guitars have little "sustain, at least until overamping and "effects pedals and stuff" came along, it's much harder to "drag" a note, and they were NOT generally included in the band in any prominent way until well into the era of the swing bands. And they were not particularly "welcomed" by the band, even for a while after a few plunkers learned to sort of fit into the style.

Some purists still will say "it ain't gitar music," One can play a "swing tune" and "make it pretty" as a guitar solo, but it ain't really swing when most people try to do it that way.

I think it was supposed to have been Tschaikovsky who said "you can't play the music if you don't know the words," but it doesn't really matter who said it. Paraphrased for swing - "You can't play swing if you can't dance!" (cheek to cheek - either end)

John


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 05:02 PM

Stan, so far, has the best explanation. Swing is a style of phrasing and playing.
Two eighth notes fit into an eighth note triplet frame. Four eighth note triplets are
counted "one and uh, two and uh, three and uh, four and uh"

The first of the two eighth notes in a swing phrase are treated as:
"one and" and the second of the two eighth notes is the "uh".

In others words, a triplet frame is imposed on two eighth notes where the
first two notes of the triplet are the equivalent of the first eighth note and
the third note of the triplet is on the second eighth note.

Swing players are actually thinking in 12/8 time when they play in 4/4.

Jazz and swing players are unconsciously thinking fast triplets when they play
standard eighth note lines.

There is a difference between a "swing band" such as found in the forties and
a "jazz band" which by definition relies on improvisation. A "swing band" can be a "jazz band" but the reverse is not always true. Glenn MIller was a swing band but not a jazz band. The same can be said for Kay Kayser, Harry James (except when he took an improvised solo), Lawrence Welk, Guy Lombardo and others that you could dance to but not feature swing artists. Paul Whiteman referred to his outfit as a jazz band but in fact he incorporated jazz musicians such as Bix Beiderbecke, Eddie Lang, Joe Venuti and others into his written arrangements, many by done by Ferde Grofe who composed the "Grand Canyon Suite". The swing bands of the forties accompanied the standard box step of the fox trot and some jitterbug styles.
Some of these dances were known as the "businessman's bounce" employed on hotel dance floors.

There is nothing mystical about swing. It has its antecedents in African music
that occurs in African drum patterns that are in 12/8 time. From these, the blues was transplanted to the New World, and jazz rhythms and ultimately in the Forties,
swing patterns. I think you'd be hard put to say that New Orleans jazz of the Twenties would fall under the classification of "swing" but this doesn't mean that the impelling African-esque rhythms didn't prevail and were suitable for dancing.

The Nineteen Thirties brought to prominence jazz swing bands such as Count Basie,
Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson and others that featured improvised solos.
There is also Southwestern Swing introduced by Milton Brown and the Brownies,
Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys and other similar bands that featured steel guitar in lieu of a trumpet or sax section.

The swing elements can be found in contemporary Chicago style blues.

Bebop incorporated swing in its intricacies and the phrasing is felt in Parker and Coltrane, Monk and Powell, and earlier influences such as Lester Young and Jimmy Dorsey (who influenced Bird).

Jazz vocalists employ swing phrasing as well.

The style is distinctly American with African roots as can be said for all of us,
genetically.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 11:26 PM

With due respect, John from Kansas, I have to disagree with you.

Back in the late 70's,I spent an entertaining couple of years playing club dates on the west coast with a random and ever-changing assortment of musicians, many of whom had been sidemen in greater and lesser known Swing Bands and Dance orchestras. My job was to pound out that straight beat underneath what ever they managed to improvise from the fake sheets. They were fairly insistent that they were playing swing jazz, and absolutely insistent that I pound away with that straight beat. If I slipped, or, God forbid, tried to get fancy, I'd get the fisheye.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST,Stan
Date: 07 Jul 12 - 06:05 AM

I agree with Stim. In swing music the beats themselves are precise and evenly spaced. It's the subdivision of beats that give music a swing feel. Perhaps when JohnInKansas talks about 'straight beats' he is talking about beats divided into two rather than three. If that's the case he is right as well.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 07 Jul 12 - 01:57 PM

It's pretty hard to describe what you play, or hear concisely. People can seem to be in disagreement when they are saying the same thing, or when the are simply describing two different things, and just don't realize it.

John's point about guitars is a case in point. Though they were featured as rhythm instruments in swing bands,they didn't generally work well as solo instruments till they became electrified. Charlie Christian's work with Benny Goodman being the turning point(and that is on the far edge of swing and borders bebop

In fact, the electrified Hawaiian steel guitar, which Frank mentioned above, became a featured solo instrument in dance bands before the regular guitar did--Roy Smeck and Alvino Rey's recordings paving the way not only for the western swing bands, but also inspiring Les Paul to develop the electric guitar style that dominated jazz from the 50's on.

Still though, there was Django, and it's hard to claim that that wasn't swing, and he wasn't electrified. I am listening right now to Bireli Lagrene, who seems to be Django and Grappelli roled into one, And he doesn't need the electronics to come across.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST,Stan
Date: 08 Jul 12 - 06:44 PM

Thanks for reminding me of gypsy jazz. I just found this;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6uXGSTfz_4

enjoy.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 08 Jul 12 - 07:31 PM

Bireli Lagrene-New Morning in Paris


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST,Stan
Date: 08 Jul 12 - 11:14 PM

Super playing indeed. Not entirely divorced from electronics of course, you can see the microphone in the sound hole, but that can't detract from the music.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 09 Jul 12 - 02:17 PM

The credit for lead single-string work predates Christian through Salvatore Massaro otherwise known as Eddie Lang who recorded with both Bix Beiderbecke and the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Django and Grapelli owe their work to the combination of Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang in the Twenties.

The first electronic amplification coming from a radio tube was Bob Dunn who was a former trombonist and played a steel guitar before that instrument was introduced in bands. He is the first one to employ an electric guitar.

Bob Will's and Milton Brown's Southwestern Swing was influenced by Django whose Hot Club band premiered in 1934. Smeck and Rey were popular in the 40's or late 30's. At one time in the 40's, Will's Playboys was the highest paid dance band in the country exceeding Goodman, Dorsey, et. al.

Swing could be found in the Twenties through artists like Ukulele Ike (Cliff Edwards) who prior to Louis Armstrong introduced "scat" singing imitating a trumpet. The main thrust of swing came about when it was incorporated into the dance music of the Forties, sometimes called the "businessman's bounce".
One would be hard put to say that the "Original Dixieland Jass Band" which had the first jazz recording employed swing. Later, Armstrong would have employed a form of it as he influenced all the arrangers for dance bands of the Thirties and early Forties.

Django acknowledged Armstrong for his influence but the compliment was not mutually given.

Blues might be credited for a rhythmic approach suggesting a 12/8 feel that could have become a swing style. This is usual in contemporary Chicago style blues playing.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 09 Jul 12 - 02:34 PM

Someone just pointed out to me that Django was recorded electronically, and the "Gypsy Jazz" sound was not traditional in any way--it was a product of the recording studio.

I thought about it, and realized that even though we make a big fuss about the solo work, a big part of the genius of those recordings was the use of multiple guitars to create that driving rhythm--drums didn't record well in those days, but by pointing a microphone at a couple guitars and bring them up in the mix, it created a really big sound that didn't occur in nature.


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Subject: RE: What Makes 'Swing'?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 09 Jul 12 - 04:14 PM

Roy Smeck played Hawaiian guitar in Vaudeville for most of twenties and had recorded extensively before 1930 and by then was quite famous. Alvino Rey started playing with Horace Heidt in 1932, and was also very well known, owing to Heidt's radio program. The first commercial guitars and amps were introduced around 1932 by Rickenbacker, but Bob Dunn, who recorded around 1935 with Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies, made his own instrument and amp. He also created his own style of playing, that had much more to do with jazz soloing than anything else.

Thanks for reminding me of Milton Brown, Frank--he, and his band, aren't much remembered, and they are worth listening to, and important--if for no other reason than they show that Western Swing and all the "country" music that came with and after it are really cleaned up, commercialized jazz and blues.


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