Swing Guitar

Dedicated to pre-bebop jazz guitar.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

What dancing can teach you about guitar.

Form often follows function. Movements look a certain way because they are done in a certain way. This idea can be used to your advantage.

A trick I learned from dancing is to watch old clips. It can take years to learn proper technique for dancing, and there are various styles to choose from. But, if you can match the look of the old dancers, often you will end up using their technique. After all - form follows function - the old dancers looked like they did because their technique was such. Match the form and the function can come with it.

I learned that my drummer, Josh Collazo, has done this same kind of thing in learning to play swing drums. I always noticed that he didn't just sound exactly right, he looked just like an old drummer from a clip. Well if was using the same technique, then it ought to look the same.

So for applying this to guitar playing - watch an old film clip of a big band from before 1945. Watch the rhythm guitar player and emulate his look. Pay attention to his posture, guitar position and arm position. Most often the guitar player will be sitting with his left leg crossed over his right, with his guitar sitting on that left leg, angled up, and his left arm strumming near the nech on 1 and 3, and by the bridge on 2 and 4. Don't take my word for it - go watch TCM (Turner Classic Movies) and check out the guitar player.

Further, beyond just swing rhythm guitar you can use this for any swing style. If you prefer to play gypsy-jazz style rhythm guitar, then watch some gypsies. Although related to American swing rhythm, gypsy rhythm has its own ideosyncracies. Watching someone play it right is often a lot better than reading a book or listening to a record without seeing the player. After all a picture is worth a thousand words.


  • At 7:56 PM, Blogger Blue Morris said…

    Any chance you could post a vid of you playing the 4-beat swing rhythm? That would be very helpful to see how you play "close to the neck" on 1 & 3, closer to the bridge on 2 & 4.

  • At 5:56 PM, Blogger Jonathan Stout said…

    I'll try to post a clip of myself playing, and perhaps more to the point, and I'll try post a clip of a vintage guitar player so you see exactly what I mean.

  • At 2:07 AM, Blogger nesor said…

    lots of good vids old and new at youtube on swinge dance and guitar


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