** As featured in issue 31 **
Hi guys and welcome back to my guitar lesson for issue 31. For this lesson we’re once again returning to the topic of Time Feel but this time with a focus on a specific sub-division - the swing 16th note. Let’s dive straight in by defining what a 16th note is for those who haven’t done a lot of work with rhythms and sub-divisions.
Music is divided in bars and beats, with a specified number of beats per bar depending on the type and genre of music being played. The most common number of beats per bar is 4 and 3 but for our purposes we’ll be sticking with 4 beats per bar. Each of these beats can be further broken down into smaller chunks of time known as sub-divisions and when we divide each beat into four further equal sections we have four sounds per beat which equals sixteen sounds per bar - hence 16th notes. Swing 16ths are a time feel based variation on the standard 16th note where the first of every two 16th notes is made slightly longer and the second a little shorter giving a feel somewhere between a straight 16th and a triplet feel, where only the first and third triplet of each three note grouping is played. You’ll see an example of how this looks and how we actually notate this feel in the PDF file that accompanies this lesson.
The swing 16th note is not a sound that is normally used in Jazz in the same way that traditional 8th note swing is applied in a Bebop or straight ahead Jazz context. The time feel we’ll be going for is a sound often associated with Latin and Funk/Rock based fusion players such as Greg Howe. Greg employs this time feel a lot in his music and it’s a more pronounced or exaggerated form of swing than Jazz musicians tend to use. As ever, the best approach here is to listen as much as possible to the time feel I am demonstrating in the video and get your ears used to the sound. Once you have the feel in your mind and ears the next step is to follow the exercises I teach in the video to develop the technical facility to play the feel correctly. Swing 16ths are a little trickier at first than straight 16ths and take a bit of getting used to but once you have the technical facility down you will find this a very useful and cool addition to your playing that can even be employed effectively over straight 16th note grooves. Normally the feel would be used when the band are grooving with swung 16ths but utilising the swung version over a straight groove creates a cool tension.
The exercises are based on simple scalar ideas initially so that you can work on the time feel in a familiar setting. You should practice switching between the straight and swing 16ths so that you develop full control over each of them and can change at will. Once this is in place and you feel very comfortable with the exercises you can begin to attempt some improvisation with this new sound, moving around the fretboard whilst trying to maintain the time feel. This will be a real test at first but is a great indicator as to how well you have integrated the new time feel on a technical and aural level.
I wish you lots of luck with this new sound - it’s a very cool string to have in your guitar bow!
See you next time guys.