Understanding Swing and the Head Nod Effect

March 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

What is Swing?

In music terms, the word “swing” refers to a bouncing groove that can be created in the rhythm of music. This can be achieved with any instrument but usually happens in the bass and drum parts of a music arrangement. A primary example of this sound would be the swing style of jazz music that was popular in the 1930s. This style of rhythm has maintained popularity throughout the decades, from swing dancing to big beat bands and more recently making a resurgence in house music around the early 2000’s. In fact, much house music derives its groove from this sort of rhythm which was popularized by the swing functions of early samplers and drum machines. In the following example, Chicago house music producer James Curd samples a 1930’s guitar groove from Django Reinhardt and applies modern day swing quantization to his drums to create a swinging house groove inspired by Woody Allen’s 1999 film, Sweet and Lowdown.

Swing Quantization with Akai and E-Mu Machines

With the advent of drum machines and samplers (namely the E-Mu SP1200 and Akai MPC 60), the function of “swing” was introduced into music production workflow and began to have a massive impact on hip hop and electronic music in the early 1980’s. While the swing function on drum machines and samplers was initially designed to emulate a human feel when using quantized beats, pioneering musicians found that these swing settings could create a groove that perfectly suited the street-wise attitude of early hip hop and dance music. The quintessential head-nod that spread throughout the evolution of electronic music came from E-Mu’s SP1200 and more prominently from Roger Linn’s involvement with the Akai MPC series. While some producers (such as J Dilla) are known for creating free-form, un-quantized beats, most early hip hop used the new swing quantization functions of these machines to create the sound we’ve come to know as American hip hop and house music.

Swing in Modern Day Application

Today you can find a swing parameter on almost every DAW and on most drum-related electronic instruments. Swing is a function that applies most easily to a quantized beat. The percentage of swing that you apply moves certain hits of your rhythm “off the grid” just enough to create a swinging movement in the drums. Most devices offer very subtle to very extreme settings. It’s worth noting that swing functions apply differently on different instruments and programs. For MPC-style swing, Akai’s hardware is hard to beat. But Propellerhead’s Reason does come loaded with groove templates that emulate the Akai MPC 60 (as well as numerous other machines.) Ableton Live also offers groove quantization that can read imported audio, MIDI, and groove template files. Native Instruments’ Maschine platform offers extensive swing settings that can be applied to groups in your project as well as individual sounds. (read more)


January 3, 2011 § 1 Comment

Mix of the week: Brendon Moeller at Deep Space (Cielo NYC)

November 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve loved Brendon Moeller’s productions as Echologist and Beat Pharmacy and was excited to come across this four hour DJ set he posted to Soundcloud. The mix crosses all boundaries and styles – this guy is a music fanatic! Psychadelic and spacey with bits of groove and breaks make for a really interesting mix.

From his soundcloud page:

Over 4 and a half hours of my set. unfortunately batteries died on my portable recorder so I couldn’t get it all, but this will give you a fair idea of why deep space is easily one of my favorite parties to play :)

Trax from vladislav delay, dorian concept, lone, king tubby, calibre, stereolab, harmonic 313, gang star, lou rawls, the orb, tribe called quest, einsturzende neubaten, suicide, lee perry, ian dury, deep chord, the specials, jimi hendrix, the commodores, inxs,,modeselektor, steely dan and more :)

SDG mix pick of the week: MJ Cole SUB:STANCE 2nd birthday at Panorama Bar Berlin 9/07/10

October 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Funky, steppy and soulful rhythms from this UK legend at a celebration for Sub:Stance at Panorama Bar in Berlin. Smoking mix that will definitely get you through the mid-week hustle. Wish I had been there for this one. From MJ’s Soundcloud page: “DJ set from Panorama Bar in Berlin earlier in July. Great night. 5-7am set. Love that button for the blinds ;)”

Markus Mehta is setting things on fire for Fall 2010 – New track for Great Stuff, hot mix on Soundcloud

September 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Munich’s Markus Mehta (Electronic-Soul / Great Stuff) dropped a couple bombs on SDG today by way of a (SMOKIN) track for Great Stuff entitled “Masque,” which appears on the Munich Disco Tech Vol. 8 EP. Pick it up today on Beatport. To celebrate, Markus has created a nice mix of the same title (Masque) that you can check out below.


01. Sean Miller “Joie” (Supernature)
02. David Vice “Som Tam” (Aenaria)
03. Nima Gorji “Groove Control” (KGBeats)
04. Pepper “Sing It” (Recycle)
05. Osunlade Pres. Nadirah Shakoor “Pride – Johnny D Remix – Vocal Edit” (Strictly Rhythm)
06. Taras Van De Voorde “1998” (Rebirth)
07. Danny Serrano “Osaka” (Neurotraxx Deluxe)
08. NDKj “Bad Taste “MiniCoolBoyz’s Deep Remix” (MKT)
09. Markus Mehta “Masque” (Great Stuff)
10. Wally Lopez Feat. Hugo “Noche Sin Luna – Ivan Pica And Luis Damora Automatica Remix” (Factomania)
11. Jens Bond “Tube” (Highgrade)
12. Mabaan Soul “Friday” (Saw)
13. Ill Blu “Friday” (Hyperdub)
14. NoiDoi “Wickid Snare” (Love Letters From Oslo)
15. Lauhaus “Moonshine” (Remote Area)

Top Ten sounds we are levitating to in September

September 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Everyone loves lists, so here’s our list of favorites for September 2010. Topping the list are Shed, SECT and Greg Wilson’s lovely remix of Escort’s “Cocaine Blues.”

1. Shed – The Traveller (Ostgut Ton)

2. SECT – SECT E.P. (Culprit)

3. Escort “Cocaine Blues” (Greg Wilson Edit)

4. Mux Mool “Hog Knuckles” (Alex B Remix)

5. Margaret Dygas How Do You Do? LP (Power Shovel Audio)

6. Soul Clap “Dreams of Tomorrow” (Wolf + Lamb)

7. Matthew Dear “Little People (Black City)” (Mark E Remix)

8. Meat Beat Manifesto – Totally Together EP (Hydrogen Dukebox)

9.   V/A – Fünf (Ostgut Ton)

10. Defy Gravity – Ascent

Sandwell District “Radio Mix # 2″ mysteriously appears at Where Next?

September 22, 2010 § Leave a comment


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