Thursday 6 October 2022 06:55 PM Micro-delays in musical timing enhance the listeners' perception of 'swing' in ... trends now

Thursday 6 October 2022 06:55 PM Micro-delays in musical timing enhance the listeners' perception of 'swing' in ... trends now
Thursday 6 October 2022 06:55 PM Micro-delays in musical timing enhance the listeners' perception of 'swing' in ... trends now

Thursday 6 October 2022 06:55 PM Micro-delays in musical timing enhance the listeners' perception of 'swing' in ... trends now

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing, but so far it has been difficult for jazz musicians to actually define what 'swing' is.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Germany think they have found out, after their study revealed that the rhythm is the result of micro-delays in musical timing. 

Traditionally, swing is thought to be added to a piece of music when quavers - notes that are an eighth of the duration of a whole note - are played with uneven lengths.

The researchers played manipulated pieces of music to jazz musicians, to see if changes in timing affected their perception of its swing.

It was found that when the notes on beat one and three were delayed by 30 milliseconds, the musicians were 7.48 times more likely to rate the music as having more swing.

However, the microtiming deviations were so small that they were imperceptible to professional jazz musicians, suggesting they use them unconsciously. 

The researchers added systemic delays to a soloist's notes relative to those played by a rhythm section backing them up, In the 'downbeat delayed' condition (brown), the downbeats were uniformly delayed by 30 milliseconds compared to those played by the rhythm section. For the 'both delayed' condition (red), both the soloist's downbeats and offbeats were delayed relative to the band. These were compared to a 'quantized original' (green) where the downbeats and offbeats played by the soloist and rhythm section were lined up. The onset timing of the rhythm section is denoted by light grey notes, the onset timing of the soloist by black notes

The researchers added systemic delays to a soloist's notes relative to those played by a rhythm section backing them up, In the 'downbeat delayed' condition (brown), the downbeats were uniformly delayed by 30 milliseconds compared to those played by the rhythm section. For the 'both delayed' condition (red), both the soloist's downbeats and offbeats were delayed relative to the band. These were compared to a 'quantized original' (green) where the downbeats and offbeats played by the soloist and rhythm section were lined up. The onset timing of the rhythm section is denoted by light grey notes, the onset timing of the soloist by black notes

Swing is known to be a key constituent of jazz music, and a trademark of legendary musicians like Duke Ellington (left) and Louis Armstrong (right)

Swing is known to be a key constituent of jazz music, and a trademark of legendary musicians like Duke Ellington (left) and Louis Armstrong (right)

WHAT IS 'SWING'? 

Swing is a style of jazz that grew from African American roots and dominated American popular music in what came to be known as the Swing Era, from approximately 1930 to 1945. 

Played by big bands led by such luminaries as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, and Artie Shaw, swing has a distinctive rhythmic feel. 

This feel is achieved by accentuating beats 2 and 4, replacing steady eighth notes with lilting, 'swinging' eighth notes, and adding accents and syncopation—all anchored by a walking bass line. 

This gives the music an undeniable groove or beat, which is hard to explain in words 

Source: Carnegie Hall 

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Swing is a key constituent of jazz music, and a trademark of legendary musicians like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.

It is known to be is achieved by accentuating beats 2 and 4, and replacing steady quavers with lilting, 'swinging' ones to create a unique rhythm. 

However, the exact musical timing behind the phenomena has so far remained mysterious.

Experts have disagreed as to whether it is the result of timing differences between the instruments, or it is the music's precision that gives it a swing feel.

A study, published today in Communication Physics, looks to scientifically define what a swing rhythm is, with the help of 19 semi-professional and 18 professional jazz musicians.

In a previous study, the team demonstrated that involuntary random timing deviations do not contribute to the swing feel, but can even impair it. 

Therefore, this time the researchers chose to uniformly manipulate sections of music.

The pieces used for the study featured a

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