Alex Terrier has studied, performed and recorded with some of the greatest musicians both in Europe and the US. A demanded musician and acclaimed instructor, Alex shares his knowledge and thoughts with you. Read More

About swing eighth notes

Articles, Beginner, free lessons

I received a message from Aingeru:

“Hello Alex,

Just want to ask you for some advice on how to lock in my swing eighth note feel when playing medium tempos. Sometimes I feel out of sync with my mates, or maybe unsure about my lines. I am going to record myself to analyze that but any kind of exercise you suggest would be welcome. My teachers have me putting the metronome on the and of 1 and 3, so the third note of the triplet on 2 and 4. Would this work?

Also this happens when I play without much conviction, or don’t know or hear the line I am playing. I am trying to solve this by using vocabulary from transcriptions so I know where the phrase goes.

Again thanks for the great site and advice!



Well, what is a good swing eighth note feel? Is it like Fletcher Henderson? Lester Young? Dexter Gordon? Dizzy Gillespie? Charlie Parker? Fats Navarro? Sonny Rollins? Miles Davis? Joe Pass? Ahmad Jamal? Mike Stern? Chris Potter? Obviously all these cats are swinging their butt off. Still, none of them swing exactly the same way, and that is an element that allows you to recognize a player, as much as the sound and the melodic concepts he/she has.

I’m sure you have witnessed this (if you haven’t, you will someday): here is an all-star band with great musicians put together for the occasion, you go to the concert or buy the album with great excitement, and then the all thing sucks. The musicians can’t swing together to save their lives even though individually they are great players, but together it just doesn’t work. Their unique ways to swing don’t match. That’s why it is of the utmost importance to have a bassist and drummer who have the same swing, who can “lock in”.

Keep in mind that being able to swing is not a disconnected musical exercise, it is a whole and you need to have a good articulation, to feel the pulse, be rhythmically accurate, know and understand the jazz vocabulary and rhythm. Also, I would not necessarily think about how to “lock in” my eighth notes. You have space between each beat, how you place your eighth notes is flexible, but it has to be in the pocket, meaning it’s swinging and has clarity.

Here are suggestions of available lessons:

The best thing to do: transcribe solos and play along the recording. Match as much as possible the soloist, record yourself and check out if you are in sync with the recording. If not, are you ahead or behind? Correct. Repeat. Transcribe other instruments, not only yours! I transcribed pianists, trumpeters, guitarists and bassists. Speaking of bass, transcribe bass lines, that’s a great way to understand the foundation.

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I have created 7 lessons to develop your rhythm.

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Potato Head Blues (Louis Armstrong): a short history lesson to understand where the “swing” is coming from and the role of each beat

Potato Head Blues JVL


In the lesson In A Sentimental Mood Part 4 I talk about and demonstrate this exercise that will really help you improve you time feel and swing eighth notes: play a ballad with a double time feel.

In A sentimental mood P4


Here is a quick video where I show you a cool exercise with the metronome that will help you feel the pulse and develop your accuracy.

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Lessons coming soon:

Eighth notes triplets exercises

How I tap the time with my foot

Exercise to feel the 4 beats and the 4-bar frame

Exercise to play against the metronome


Please share with us what you think about this and comment below. Do you have any questions Do you have any recommendation or tip that helped you and could help other musicians to improve their swing?

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