Swinging in sixteenth notes

Sixteenth notes are often neglected by many when improvising over a swing beat.

Observe how pianist David Newton demonstrates the use of sixteenth notes in his solo, at 3m33s of this video.

The basic rhythm for a swing beat is as shown in diagram 1 below


Diagram 1

Thus an improvised melody maybe played like this over a swing beat


Diagram 2

string of eight notes triplets fit nicely into swing beats too


Diagram 3

A jazz improviser will usually apply a mixture of both in his solos, as shown in diagram 4 below


Diagram 4

This alone is quite enough for a nice solo, however, an occasional use of sixteenth notes could always produce some interesting effect rhythmically

Here’s another example,

See how Diana Krall spice up her solo with sixteenth notes, at 1m23s of this video.

Students who have practised bebop eight notes soloing thoroughly should have no problem in this area. The sixteenth notes here could be treated as eight notes played in double time.


Diagram 5

is equivalent to


Diagram 6
However, keep in mind that due to this factor, applying sixteenth notes on a medium tempo swing beat of maybe 150bpm, would be like soloing over a bebop tune at 300bpm !!


  • lionel

    Reply Reply May 6, 2009

    A really nice post.

    I really gotta pick this up.

    thanks bro 🙂

  • raymond cromzigt

    Reply Reply May 21, 2009


    I know this website for couple of minutes now and I really must say: This is great.

    Keep the good work up.

    Raymond Cromzigt
    Pianist from the Netherlands

    • KCLau

      Reply Reply May 28, 2009

      @ Raymond,

      Great to know that you like it!

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