The term “swing” can have different meanings to different people. However, its jazz origins provide a useful starting point for understanding what it means in software and electronic music production. In jazz, swing timing typically refers to a specific rhythm and notation convention. It indicates that each beat is subdivided by two, but that those two subdivisions don’t have the same duration. The first will be conventionally twice as long as the second. In practice, this is equivalent to subdividing every beat into a triplet, and only executing the first and third triplet.

In a broader sense, swinging often describes a rhythm with an off-kilter groove. For instance, drummers swing the beat, introducing a slightly irregular feel to the rhythm, and thus playing with a certain groove. In the next tutorial, we will show you how to apply and experiment with this concept inside the SoundBridge: DAW.

In front of us, we have a simple sequence created in SoundBridge. It contains elements like kick drum, hi-hat, bassline, and some synth chords stabs. Among them, we have a shaker sound written in the MIDI sequencer. This shaker sound will be our main focus for now. Let’s first hear the whole sequence.

SoundBridge sequence for swing

SoundBridge sequence for swing

~Full Mix – Without Swing

As we can hear from the audio example, the sequence sounds decent, but regarding the rhythm, we could add more interest if we introduced swing. We previously mentioned the shaker. Now let’s take a closer look at it by opening the MIDI editor. First, we will listen to it in solo.

~Shaker – Without Swing

Shaker midi editor window

Shaker midi editor window

The picture above shows us the MIDI editor window of the shaker. It exposes the notes and velocity values of the rhythm pattern we have created. You can see that the grid is set to 1/16, and the start and endpoints of the notes are locked to the grid lines shown in the background. Our goal is to change that. This can be done by clicking on the “Swing” button down on the Transport bar. When we do this, we are able to see a new window – the “Swing” menu, as shown in the picture below.

The Swing Menu

The Swing Menu

The Swing Menu

This menu has a number of parameters to control. On the top left section, we can see three tabs, to select if the effect will be applied to the 1/8, 1/16, or the 1/32 subdivision of the beat. Below this, there is a dial, where we can set the amount of effect expressed in percentage. After this is applied, we can hit the “Add to Snap” button. This automatically adds the settings to the “Snap Presets” window to the right. This is useful to quickly apply a previously tweaked setting. Finally, the “Quantize” button will apply the setting to all selected notes in the MIDI edit window.

The swing presets

The swing presets

In the picture above you can see we have set the swing amount to 50% on the 1/16 subdivision and saved the preset, which is now available on the right side. For now, we have named this preset “1/16 – 50%”. Selecting this snap setting adjusts the overall grid lines of the project. Now that it’s applied, you will notice that the start and endpoints of the shaker notes in the MIDI edit window don’t lock to the grid anymore. Now, let’s select all shaker notes on the MIDI editor and click the “Quantize” button. After that, as shown in the picture below, you will see the shaker’s notes start and endpoints lock to the grid again.

Quantized shaker to a swing grid

Quantized shaker to a swing grid

Let’s take a listen to our shaker pattern now.

~Shaker – Swing 1/16 – 50%

We can hear that the new shaker pattern has a different rhythm feeling. We will further apply these swing settings to other elements of the mix. Compared to the initial version it sure has a different and interesting drum groove. Experiment with it!

~Full Mix – Swing 1/16 – 50 %