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Swing Studies for Beginning Jazzers

Module SWX

Download: Swing Studies

For Beginning Jazzers

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Swing Studies

for Beginning Jazzers

These Swing Studies are a collection of exercises meant to help you learn how to play in a swinging style. While it is true that swing has a rhythmic element to it, a lot of effort is wasted on trying to learn that rhythm without first paying attention to the articulation. I have found that when the students learn the correct articulation first, the rhythmic feel comes more naturally as a result.

Say “Bebop!”

I often ask the students to say the word “bebop” to help them get the right feel on the first few exercises. Two eighth-notes, starting on the downbeat, have a lopsided feel and emphasis is given to the upbeat, not the downbeat. So say the word “bebop” before you start the exercises. It will help you learn the style.


  1. Always use a metronome when practicing these exercises.

  2. Repeat each section until the phrase sounds natural.

  3. Downbeats with tenudos over them (-) should be long. Avoid practicing short downbeats. Short downbeats will give you a “ricky tick” style that is outdated in most of today's jazz ensembles.

  4. Pay close attention to the slurs. Always slur the upbeats to the downbeats as indicated in these exercises.

  5. When you have long notes, do something with them. You can crescendo or diminuendo or be creative. Just don't play a flat-lined, dead note.

Slurring Conventions in Jazz Notation

It has always been my understanding that most slurs are NOT written into jazz music. That does not mean you are supposed to tongue every note. In jazz, where and how you slur is part of your style. It is interpretive....within reason.

Keep this in mind as you use these exercises. The music you read as a jazz player will most likely not have any slurs written into the parts.

Also, something else to keep in mind is that the upbeat to downbeat convention is just a starting point. It is a general guideline (like the pirates' code), and is not meant to be adhered to on a strict basis.

The purpose of these exercises is to help you get used to slurring upbeats to downbeats. However, as you progress as a jazz player, you will find many situations that require something more than this simple formula.


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Swing Studies for Beginning Jazzers

Swing Studies for Beginning Jazzers

Download: Swing Studies

For Beginning Jazzers

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