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How to Play in Swing Rhythm

Swing rhythm has to do with eighth notes 🎵: it is the long-short “lazy” feel you hear in jazz tunes, as well as country, rock, folk and other music styles. Think about the songs Heart and Soul and Happy Birthday; both have eighth notes that “swing” because they are uneven, with a long-short feel. Swing is not notated in your sheet music; the eighth notes 🎵 in a piece meant to be played with swing rhythm look the same as usual 🎵. The word “Swing” is sometimes written as a tempo marking at the beginning of a swing rhythm piece, but sometimes it isn’t 🤪. You need to train your ear👂to tell whether a song is to be played in swing rhythm. You can do this by practicing my swing rhythm exercise below, and by listening to your song on Youtube.com and discerning whether the song uses even eighth notes🎵or eighth notes that swing🎵. Try playing all 12 scales with me, using Swing Rhythm in this video:


How to Play in Swing Rhythm using scales.


Once you get comfortable playing your scales in Swing, you can move on to playing Erie Canal, which is from BOOK 1 of my instructional series called Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to Spark the Mind, Heart and Soul available on Amazon. Watch the video below then Download and Print the Erie Canal free sheet music below the video.

Erie Canal

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Va1rJDKuClM

How to play Swing Rhythm on Erie Canal, from Upper Hands Piano, Book 1 p.71

I hope you find these videos on Swing Rhythm helpful! Swing is one of those mysterious unwritten rules of music theory that isn’t always taught. Someone must explain it to you, or you will never quite understand why Happy Birthday sounds kind of jaunty and uneven.

You might also want to visit this Simple Rhythm Exercise to help you keep a steady beat when alternating between eighth notes and quarter notes, and these Exercises to Help You Play Triplets.

Leave a comment below and tell us about your experiences with Swing Rhythm! I really appreciate comments!! You help others in the community of adult piano students when you ask a question or share an anecdote, so please don’t be shy!

With love and music, Gaili

P.S. Amazon has put my Piano Powered, BOOK 2 on a crazy sale ($3.93 instead of $19.95!) I don’t know how long it will last, so click to order now. It is almost the same as my Upper Hands Piano BOOK 2, but altered slightly for younger Adults and Teens:

P.P.S. More free sheet music is on its way August 1st, so be sure to subscribe to this blog in the top right of this page. Thanks!

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