Swinging triplets?
Question: I would like to know: when you're playing a 4/4 time piece of swing music, jazz, rag,blues etc. with a swing rhythm - and encounter triplet quarter notes are they played strictly as written or with some sort of swing rhythm as well? Thanks in advance for your help. I so appreciate the musical advice you've given me in the past. B.R.

Answer: While "swing" notes are not precisely like triplets - swing is flexible, and the first note of each pair can vary in length depending on the player and the mood - a triplet pretty much has to be a triplet. If someone has taken the trouble to specifically indicate a triplet, I think it would be best to go ahead and play it literally.

"Swing" has a long tradition behind it - long preceding jazz. Certain notes written as equal were played unequally hundreds of years ago, particularly in France. We always want to keep in mind that notation is not like a visual version of a recording - notation is plain because it must be easily readable; performance is complex and may contain subtleties that would be difficult to notate precisely. So even in classical music there may be rhythmic nuances not evident in the notation. But I think a triplet is something that really has but one definition; it needs to be three equal notes or it will lose its character. It's already swinging as hard as it can.

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