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How to Play Swing Style Grooves on the Bass Guitar

Swing style grooves can be accomplished easily with the bass guitar. Swing style originated in the late 1920s and early ’30s. The style of the Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman bands typifies the music of the early swing era. Bands like The Brian Setzer Orchestra bring swing to today’s music scene.

In swing style, the first note of the two eighth notes in each beat is slightly longer than the second — long, short, long, short — and it gives the feeling of…swinging. Each of the four beats in a measure still has the three parts of a triplet, but you tend to play on only the first and third of each — on the “tri-” and on the “-let” of the “tri-pe-let.”

The bass line in swing style is predictable but cool (it makes you want to snap your fingers). The vast majority of swing tunes are based on a major or a dominant tonality.

This swing groove is in a major tonality, using a major pentatonic scale. Start this groove with your middle finger to avoid shifting your left hand.

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As you listen to this swing groove, notice how the notes of the bass line are played on the beat and how the drums subdivide each of those beats into — that’s right — triplets. You can also watch this swing groove.

This swing groove uses a mode — in this case, the common Mixolydian mode.

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