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Clearer swing when notes are delayed

Musicians perform at the Punta del Leste International Jazz Festival in 2020

Jimmy Baikovicius / Wikimedia Commons

Defined by the New Harvard Dictionary of Music as an intangible rhythmic momentum manifested in a variety of relationships between long and short notes, the swing of jazz is more noticeable when alternating notes are delayed by 30 milliseconds (Communications Physics, October 6). Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization and the University of Göttingen, Germany, reached this conclusion after delaying solo sections in three songs (The smudge, Texas blues, and Jordu) by different lengths of time to create systematic delays on the downbeats, which correspond to the hypothetical taps of a conductor’s baton ( They asked 19 semiprofessional and 18 professional jazz musicians to evaluate the amount of swing in the manipulated music. The likelihood that they would state a song had swing was 7.48 times higher when the downbeats were delayed than when they were not. The researchers also analyzed 450 jazz solo performances and found these delays in almost all of them. This suggests that jazz musicians use these subtle time manipulations to increase the sensation of swing.