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A swing quaver is what we use in Jazz as an alternative way to play the common eighth notes. While a common quaver subdivision has an equal time value, the Swing quaver is performed with unequal durations. usually, the first eighth note lasts a little more than the second. Thats why it is said that the swing eighth note should go back or delayed a bit. This is very subtle, but absolutely necessary to adopt the language of jazz. Sometimes this kind of quaver is indicated in the score, but normally, any Jazz standard should be played with swing eighth notes. In the Real Books, for instance, its not mentioned that a quaver must be played as a swing eighth note, since these books are exclusively about Jazz Standards. Remember that as it is very important to know the language of jazz and its modes, playing swing quavers is important too. In music theory, the swing quaver comes from the eighth note triplet which, as its name implies, has three eighth notes per beat.

In a swing eighth note, the first two quavers of the triplet are tied.

Triplet with a slur on the first two notes

Swing Quaver

Remember most of the time you see Jazz standards in music books, the swing eighth notes are written as normal quavers, this, in order to make reading easier. Now well see the difference in the interpretation of common and swing quavers, using the same sentence as example. Practice Swing sound. Phrases a are played in normal eighth notes and phrases b with swing eighth notes. 2011

Example 1-a

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Example 1-b

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Example 2-a

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Example 2-b

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If you spend too much time studying the Swing quaver, youll come to a tipping point at which youll lose the sense of the normal interpretation of the common eighth note. This isnt bad or good, its just a stage. Then well have to resume the normal interpretation of the eighth. It is very common that while this is being studied, we tend to play everything with a Swing feeling. But dont worry because eventually, youll be able to master the two types of quavers and play the right one the context suggests. To exercise these swing quavers, just choose any musical phrase and play it with Swing eighth notes. A good idea is to practice pentatonic scales, modes, arpeggios, etc.
A Minor Pentatonic Scale (Example 1 promotional video)
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A Minor Pentatonic Scale (Example 2 promotional video)

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C Ionian Mode (Example 3 promotional video)

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The best way is to exercise with all we can and always with a metronome or accompaniment. It is also advisable to record yourself while you exercise, and to analyze the way you play the swing eighth note, slowly at the beginning, and speeding it up once youre feeling more comfortable with the beat. Finally, be sure to pay close attention to jazz records. 2011