Understanding time signatures and swing

Mark Nicholson
Mark Nicholson Member Posts: 3 Newcomer
edited March 2022 in Maschine

Hey peeps, I'd like some help understanding time signatures and swing in Maschine please.

I want to reproduce the drum beat of an old-skool 12-bar-blues shuffle like Booker T has going on here:

I've done it two ways:

Method 1: 140 BPM, 4/4 time, quantize grid resolution set to 1/8T (triplets):

Method 2: 210 BPM, 12/8 time, quantize grid resolution 1/8 (not triplets):

Both sound the same to me, played back to back, except when I add swing. Swing has no effect at all on method 2, and on method 1 its only effect is on the hi-hats, which move from ta-ta to t'ta as swing is increased.

Question 1 is about how swing works. As far as I can see, it has no effect on the divisions of the grid, and it only affects the sub-divisions of the grid. It seems to delay the later sub-divisions. So, in 12/8 it has no effect as the beats are always on 1.2, 1.3 etc. In 4/4 triplet time I have 1.1.1, 1.1.2. and 1.1.3 and it seems to affect x.1.2 and x.1.3. I'm guessing about .2 as I never use it in this pattern. Could you weigh in on my understanding of swing please?

Question 2 is which approach is better, or is there a third (and fourth, etc?) option? Ultimately, I'll be laying down tracks from other MIDI devices and directly from sampled instruments. Am I going to find out later on that I should have done it in a particular way?

Thanks for any advice,

  • Mark



  • ozon
    ozon Member Posts: 890 Guru

    That’s actually an interesting music theory question. To my knowledge

    • swing is not triplets but a timing deviation of every second beat from a straight rhythm which may approach triplets or even go beyond. In sequencer software, swing is often applied in percentage values where 50% means straight, 66% sounds like triplets and 75% sounds like dotted.
    • shuffle is a time signature with triplets (like a 6/8) notated as straight 4/4. Shuffle can be applied to a subdivision, like 8ths or 16ths or even 32ths.

    Thus it depends on what you want to achieve. Use triplet subdivisions for a shuffle, or apply swing on a straight 4/4 to have a more loose feel.

  • D-One
    D-One Moderator Posts: 1,800 mod
    edited February 2022

    Maybe some pointers on swing can help: It does not affect downbeats, it's meant for off-beats, it just delays them, (It can also do the opposite in Maschine since there is an Invert button) here's a typical example:

    "Cycle" is the length in which the off-beats will be affected, this is really hard to explain in words, let's look at 1/2 Cycle, everything in between gets delayed except for the downbeat, and half of it (at 1/2 that's @ bar 1.3), like this: (grid is at 1/8)

    Once we start going outside of 4/4 I am lost since I'm just a 4/4 pleb and was never any good at maths 😅

    At 4/4 140BPM with just regular 16th notes everything lines ups perfectly against the song for me. With your Method #1 (8th note triplet) the hats will be ahead of time a little bit compared to the original. (the 'grove' track is the isolated drums from the song you posted)

    But both methods #1 and #2 sound the same, so neither are the exact groove of that song.

    Some other notes:

    • The exact way it works changes between software/hardware to the point folks heavy into standalone drum machines buy specific models just because of it, and, advanced DAW's have a multitude of types of swing to choose from including ways to add non-constant swing.
    • Swing is not a triplet technically but can sound exactly the same if configured to do such depending on how much it can delay the off-beats.
    • Altho swing is designed for a more humanized feel or to reach particular groves i's still constant and mechanical, it's too perfect and math-driven so it can never hold a candle VS a drummer for this kind of genre if realism is a concern for you.

  • olafmol
    olafmol Member Posts: 123 Pro
    edited March 2022
  • D-One
    D-One Moderator Posts: 1,800 mod
    edited February 2022

    Oh... I forgot, If you have trouble understanding what's going on an Oscilloscope can be very helpful and provide a visual representation, like this:

    I'm using occularScope, it's free.

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