To Swing Or Not To Swing

by Teresa Jennings/arr. Paul Jennings

The point of this song is also its biggest challenge: knowing when to swing and when not to swing. Swing can be a tough thing to define, especially to children. So more often than not, it's best to show by example. For this, you really do need our recording. Our big band arrangement is the perfect way for young singers to hear and perform a song with such subtle differences.

When the song swings, the eighth notes have a triplet-based undercurrent, which gives them a bit of a lilting effect. When it doesn't swing, the eighth notes are even, or straight, with a regular duple feeling. In the case of this song, the sections that do not swing are done in a Latin style.

There are some terrific teachable moments in here! For one thing, students will need to keep a close eye on the style markings as they go back and forth on the music. The first style marking is swing at the beginning of the song. At measure 13, it goes into Latin. At 21, it goes back into swing, and so on. The drummer on the recording helps to lead the changes from one style to another, so be sure kids are listening for the set-ups.

Another learning opportunity comes from actually listening to the grooves to feel the difference between the two. The drums are critical, of course, but so is the entire rhythm section. In the swing segments, the bass is an acoustic, or string, bass. It "walks" in an eighth note pattern. When the groove is Latin, the bass is an electric bass that plays syncopated chord roots. Auxiliary percussion joins in as well with congas, etc., for the Latin parts. The guitarist plays an acoustic arch top for the swing sections, and jazz electric for the Latin sections, and so on. Use the instrumental accompaniment track (track 19) as a listening guide for optimum analysis and learning impact.

Once again, the singers are all in unison throughout. But you will also see that the second time at measure 5, they sing the second line instead of the first one. The instrumental soli line on the recording is demonstrating the contrast between swinging and not swinging. (Tidbit for you: the line is actually mostly identical note-wise at both measure 5 and 13. Only the style changes.) The kids are commenting musically on what they hear: "This swings" or "This does not swing."

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.