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Michael McBroom

Producing a "swing feel" with MIDI Instruments?

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I did a search on this topic (i.e., "swing feel") here first thing, and I got only a couple of peripheral hits. So, I'm guessing it's not something that's widely discussed.

I'm working on a piece in "swing 8ths" right now. I imported a MIDI melody track that was already written with a swing feel, and I found it interesting in the way it wound up looking in the staff view. A lot of dotted 8th-16th groups, some triplets with the second note not voiced. The dotted 8th-16th rhythms sounded rather stilted, whereas the triplet ones sounded better. So I tried quantizing the track. I've never quantized anything before, so I just guessed at the values I plugged in. They seem to work okay, though, so I guess I just got lucky? In the Quantize dialog, I entered 1/8 as the note value and just guessed at 70% for the swing value. I didn't adjust any of the other parameters.

So, I'm curious what your preferred methods are when you're writing (or importing) swing parts. What works best for you?

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Cakewalk does not handle triplet notation well, but the mis-interpreted notation in the staff view won't affect the underlying timing of the MIDI events, it;s just a display issue. If the MIDI sounds wonkiy, it is wonky.  ;^)

I record everything in real time,  and it can be a chore to quantize because my stuff tends to be a mix of straight 16th, 8ths, 8th triplets and sometimes oddball figures like 3 in the time of 5/16.

Usually I have to selectively quantize small sections to the appropriate value. Sometimes I'll hard-quantize a copy of a pattern, and use it as a Groove-Quantize reference to percentage quantize relevant parts of the original track.

I never really think in terms of 'swing', and have seldom been able to get what I need with swing quantizing.

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I imported a horn part into this piece, a part that had a lot of dotted 8th-16th figures, so just guessing again, I set the time value for dotted 8th, and then just played around with the other parameters. After quite a bit of experimentation, I came up with a strength of 75% and a swing of 70%. This changed the dotted 8ths to 8ths, and isolated the 16ths. The result was the best I've been able to come up with so far. Still a little edgy in parts, but overall, a swing feel predominates. So I'm somewhat satisfied with the results. I think, though, if I'm going to try to write a part with a swing feel, I'll use triplets and be done with it. Hardcore jazzophiles will tell you that swing and triplets are two different things, but I dunno if I'm willing to split those hairs at this point.

 

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Not the best solution... but you could record the "swing" part with even eighths (or quantize it to even eighths if it already exists) and then use the realtime MIDI quantize plugin to re-introduce the swing. This should fix the notation *and* have playback sound correct.

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Huh. How'd I miss the MIDI quantize plug-in? OK, so I tried it out on the melody track. Set it to  quantize both start times and durations. Left everything else alone except for "swing," which I changed to 70%. I've had reasonably good luck with the value so far. And I gave it a spin.

Hey, it works pretty well. A few isolated 16ths are getting jerked around some, but I think I can tame them once I've focused in on the individual problem ones.

Interesting -- in the sheet music, it's retained all the dotted 8th-16th figures. Oh well, as long as it's giving the tune the correct feel, I don't care how CW shows them.

 

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