More Jazz : Swingin’ in Dorico

I like to hear what I’m writing from time to time and the feel is important. When I include Dorico in recordings it becomes crucial, and since I’m not alone in this I thought I should share how to make the most of Dorico’s virtually unlimited nuances of “swing.”

Many of us were taught that “swing” meant to play eighth-notes (or quavers) as if they were triplets, where the first note got the first two and the last note got the one left over, so the first was longer (twice as long) and the second shorter. Some people (embarrassingly often guitarists) find this difficult so a few books write songs that are definitely in 4/4 as 12/8 so that the swing is written-out as quarter-note then eighth-note. A more complicated version is the dotted eighth-note followed by a sixteenth-note (semi-quaver), usually with the word “swing” above it. (Let’s leave out a discussion of whether Bach meant this notation as being swing, for now at least.) Technically this is “triplet swing” but since it is the most common we’ll use it for our discussion here and I’ll point you to more complex uses of swing later.

Of course following this triplet swing rigidly can start to sound robotic and often we feel shades of swing that this theoretical swing doesn’t really cover. We may want to cut the second note shorter, or lengthen it a bit. This is one of those areas in which Dorico shines. To start with: you have light, medium and heavy versions of swing for both eighth- and sixteenth-notes. In Play Mode, choose Play > Playback Options. Under Timing you will see Rhythmic Feel. In the example below I have chosen “Heavy swing 8ths” for my project:

Where to fine swing in the menu

To see your options, click on the disclosure triangle to the right of the current swing setting:

Swing options

What does “(fixed)” mean? The swing timing is kept exactly the same despite the tempo. If you have listened to more than a little jazz, or good blues, you have probably noticed that swing changes with the tempo. Typically the first note is held longer is slow tempos. In very fast tempos “light swing” can even become regular eighth notes! If the swing version is NOT fixed then Dorico automatically shifts it according to the tempo.

LOTS of control, right? But this is DORICO, so there is even more control in your hands. Did you notice the”Edit…” button beside the disclosure triangle in the first screen shot? Clicking on that gives you the ultimate in control of ANY type of tuplet swing:

Exact ratios of swing

You just choose the Swing Unit and then choose your own settings for “Low tempo” and “High Tempo” and use the sliders to select the exact ratio for the swing you want, shown as both ratio and percent of time taken by the first note. You can experiment to find the exact ratio if you like, or you might find one of the simpler versions suits your taste. It’s all up to you.

You can find more information on Swing Ratios on the web site Dorico Help here.

Happy Swingin’!