Rhythm, Swing and Nod Factor
Rhythm is the timing of musical sounds and silences, this varies greatly between musical styles and along with “groove” actually are a major part of defining the difference between genres. Groove is created by the interplay between parts of a track. In hip-hop, the sense of groove is set by the rhythmic relation of the drums not only to each other, but also to the bass. The sense of movement of the music is what gets our heads nodding and bodies moving as listeners, and gives us a sense of music being”flat”, bouncy, staggered, etc. Being able to create or “feel” the movement of the music as a producer greatly enhances your ability the make listeners groove along with the track. For many people, rhythm doesn’t come naturally. Fortunately it IS learnable with a little bit of concentration and dedication.
“Swing” is the cohesive rhythmic feel of all elements in a beat. East coast hip-hop of the 90’s and current boom bap styles usually feature a swing on the drums and samples that produces a “jerky” feel. DJ Premier for example is famous for use use of heavy swing in many of his beats. West Coast and Southern styles generally have a flatter, smoother rhythm with less swing, or none at all.
These are difficult concepts to explain, but its easier to get the gist of it when you hear it. Here a hip-hop pattern with the swing set to zero: (Sounds courtesy of Ethan Hein)
Now, here’s the same beat with the swing knob set to 70%.
The difference becomes even more clear when you see a side-by-side comparison of the two drum patterns as they would appear in your production software or beat machine. Each orange box is a drum hit. The top row is the kick drum, the middle row is the snare, and the bottom row is the hi-hat. The hi-hats play on every eighth note, seeing the effect of swing on them is especially obvious.
All major music production software and digital audio workstations include use of a “quantize” feature which gives some adjustable control over the groove of your individual musical elements.
For a more in depth analysis of the concept of Groove/Swing .. click here: What is Groove?