Swing and Lilt

Bounce Metronome Feature:
Pro Version Only

Youtube Video

4/4 with light swing
(3D bounce, bouncing number words, bounce inside oval)

What is it?

 Swung notes are beat subdivisions played in an uneven way, as in Jazz music,, and the notes inégales of early music. You also get a subtler variation of time within a measure, or from one measure to the next, in music, which you can call Lilt.

Why is Bounce Metronome so great for Swing Rhythms?

  • You can choose light, medium, or hard swing, or set any custom amount of swing.
  • Also features the swung triplets which you get in jigs in traditional music (not the same as the swung duplets of so called "triplet swing")
  • The bounce visuals are ideal for swing rhythms as they show you exactly when to play the swung note in advance. This helps you to play these rhythms precisely in a relaxed way.
  • It can also be used for buzz rolls, and a "lilt" effect.

With all these rhythms, the bounce is like your own conductor to help with the timing of the swung notes. You can use it to practise swing for Jazz rhythms, the swung notes of many folk rhythms such as Scottish folk music etc.  the notes inégal of early music, or any other tradition that uses swung notes.


Where do I find it in Bounce Metronome

Youtube Video

7/4 with hard swing

Pick ‘Swing & Lilt’ from the drop-down list in the main window. Or switch on Swing or Lilt in the Pro metronome. You can also find htis option ih many of the other bounce metronome types in the main window drop list.

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Youtube Video

5/4 with medium swing Do you want to see more of these? See >Video gallery with more videos

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Swung notes are a feature of many types of music. Notes are played alternately longer and shorter than usual though normally notated all the same length. See the wikipedia article on Swung Note. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swung_note

Types of music that use swung notes include jazz, Celtic music, some dance and country music, and early music particularly from France in the middle of the 16th century to late 18th century.

For the early music use (notes inégal) see notes inégal (wikipedia) and the Dolmetsch site on notes inégal

For the precursors much earlier in the Ars Antiqua rhythmic modes see Rhythmic Modes (wikiedia)

Nearly all music has beats that are slightly uneven with a "groove", for example  the subtle rhythms of Latin American dance music.

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Youtube Video

Demo of the swing capabilities of Bounce Metronome in 4/4 and 6/8

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In nearly all types of music the beats in a bar are uneven in a subtle way, and the subdivisions also.

So by adding a gentle lilt to the metronome you can make the rhythm more human, and perhaps easier to play along with. Also it helps you to keep versatility in your rhythm, so that you don't get into a rut of playing all the beats exactly the same.

To do this in Bounce Metronome you set the amount of Swing to a small amount such as "Gentle lilt". You probably want to apply a bit of a lilt to several of the parts, not just to the subdivisions of the main beat.

Why it's needed?

You notice this especially if you compare it with computer generated music with the notes all exactly the same length.

If you take a computer generated track and vary the beat with a gentle lilt, it makes the music much more natural sounding. It is likely to be easier to play along with.

In natural rhythms such as your stride when walking, beating of heart etc - the timing varies subtly - you wouldn't walk with each stride exactly the same length - if you did that you would walk like a robot.

So the same can happen with a metronome too. If you find it easy to play along with other musicians and hard to play with a metronome, it may well be because you are used to playing with a lilt and can't adjust your playing to the strict clock-like beat of a metronome.

This gentle lilt in your playing is something good, something to foster. So when you do metronome practice, it is good if you can adjust the metronome to play with a lilt  (unless you need to play a clock-like strict beat for some reason for a particular piece say).

To do this in Bounce Metronome Pro, just use the gentler settings for swing, such as Gentle lilt. You may also want to unselect "Swing parts with most beats only". This lets you apply a bit of lilt to all the parts in the rhythm, e.g. do the four beats of 4/4 with a lilt to them - a gradual change of timing through the bar. You probably only want a small amount of lilt for this. Then you could use a larger amount of swing if you want to swing eighth notes subdivisions of each beat.

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With swung notes, you can feel that the beats are uneven in a more noticeable way than a gentle lilt. The second beat in a pair is normally faster than the first.

As you see you can vary the amount of swing, so you can have a light, medium or hard swing or anything in between.

So, the amount of swing is not a fixed thing that has to be 2:1 for instance. Also the amount of swing varies usually with tempo - faster notes tend to be played with slightly less swing.

You can set any of these amounts of swing in Bounce Metronome Pro by adjusting the slider.

The preset medium swing is set to 2 : 1 (same timing as quarter note then eighth note). Light swing is 3 : 2 and hard swing is 4 : 1. Or you can set it by hand to any level of swing you like.

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Buzz Rolls

Lilt or swing here for three or more beats is done with a natural decay, faster and lighter like the bounce of a bouncing ball .  It's aslo the same effect you get with the bounces of a drumstick when a drummer performs a buzz roll.

So in a four subdivisions swing, the first note is slower than normal, then the next one is a little faster, the third note is the fastest of all, then followed by a slower note again for the lift of the drum stick before the next main beat.


So, this gives you a "buzz roll" and "reverse buzz roll" effect - interesting to drummers particularly. 

You can also use this with a gentle lilt just to make n-tuplets a bit uneven in an interesting way.

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The Buzz Roll style pattern of beats gradually faster, is also very similar to the rhythm of the triplets in a jig in celtic music.

To get a jig type rhythm, just choose 6/8 as the rhythm and switch on the swing.

Youtube Video

6/8 with hard swing and lilt measures - similar to way Jigs are played
Hard swing, centre beat shifted slightly, and lilt measures, all features of traditional Celtic music, and with auto accents

You can adjust the amount of swing to vary how much longer the beats 1 and 4 are, and you can also click and drag to adjust timing of individual beats for fine adjustments.

Makes beat 1 longer than equal divisions, beat 2 shorter, beat 3 about the same, as for traditional jig music.

You can also use auto accents to accent beats 1 and 4.

Other features of interest for Celtic Traditional Music

There's an option to lilt alternate measures faster and slower, also with larger-scale patterns in fours and eights etc for the measures, again similarly to the way the measures vary subtly in traditional music.

Also you can also adjust the position of the centre beat in the 6/8 (beat 4) which is often played just a bit after the exact middle of the measure (so close to the middle as to be barely noticeable but gives the rhythm more of a dancing feel to it).

Limitations for practising these rhythms

It's not really attempting to exactly duplicate the rhythms of traditional music, and I imagine probably best way to learn these is to play a lot of sessions with other players or learn from recordings - but I have programmed these rhythmic and timing ideas from traditional music, so could well be useful as a tool to help get used to making these sorts of variations in timing and to increase ones flexibility in the rhythms one can play.

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Who for?

Of particular interest to these musicians: Jazz musicians. Scottish and Irish traditional musicians. Early musicians involved in authentic performance in the performance tradition of notes inégal.

Also for any musician - even if you don't need to play swing, it can be useful to try these rhythms as a way to improve your rhythmic vocabulary.

Though you may not use swing in your type of music, you may find that a gentler version of the same thing, a gentle lilt, helps bring it to life.

As a step towards using gentle lilt, it may help to practise swing first as it makes the distinctions more obvious. After you get used to varying the size of subdivisions with swing, you can then move on to a gentle lilt.

You can also try rhythms with swing to make your rhythmic vocabulary more flexible.


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