How Swing Band Music Differs from Jazz

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Swing band music and jazz may have similarities, but there are also important differences between the two genres. If you’re a fan of either type of music, it’s worth understanding the key distinctions.


While both swing band music and jazz emerged from the same African-American musical traditions, they developed in different directions in the early 20th century. Jazz was focused more on improvisation and individual expression, while swing band music emphasized group performance and arrangement. As a result, swing band music tended to be more tightly structured and less experimental than jazz.

While there are many similarities between swing band music and jazz, there are also some important differences. Swing band music is usually more upbeat and danceable than jazz, and it often features a horn section prominently prominently. Jazz, on the other hand, tends to be more mellow and introspective, with a greater focus on solo performances.

Today, swing band music and jazz have both evolved considerably, but their basic character remains the same. If you’re looking for toe-tapping tunes to get you moving, swing band music is probably your best bet. But if you want to explore the deeper implications of African-American musical traditions, jazz is the way to go.

The Birth of Swing Music

Swing music was born in the early 1920s and was developed by African American musicians. It is a type of jazz that is characterized by a strong rhythm section, soloing, and improvised melodies. Swing band music has a different sound than other types of jazz because it is played at a faster tempo and has a more syncopated rhythm.

The Lindy Hop

The Lindy Hop is a partner dance that originated in Harlem, New York City, in 1928 and has since evolved around the world. It was named after aviator Charles Lindbergh, who “hopped” the Atlantic Ocean in his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, in 1927.

The Lindy Hop is danced to swing music, and is a descendant of the earlier Charleston dance. It is often said to be the first truly American dance because it developed independently from dances brought over from Europe.

The Lindy Hop is characterized by its rhythmic cohesion between dancers, its improvisational nature, and its use of both lead and follow techniques. In a typical Lindy HopPattern, dancers will both start and end facing each other in what is known as a “slot.”

There are many different variations of the Lindy Hop, but all of them share the same basic footwork: triple steps (also called “chasses”) and kicks (or “swivels”). The triple steps are usually done on counts 1-2-3 or 4-5-6, while the kicks are done on counts 2& or 4&.

The Charleston

Swing music, or simplyswing,is a form of popular music developed in the United States that dominated in the 1930s and 1940s. The name swing came from the ‘swaying’ feeling it gave dancers. Swing bands usually featured soloists who would improvise on the melody over the arrangement. The danceable swing style of big bands and bandleaders such as Benny Goodman was the dominant form of jazz in the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s. Swing music began to decline in popularity during World War II because of several factors. By the late 1940s, swing had evolved into new styles such as bebop jazz.

The Charleston is a rhythmic African-American dance popularized by James P. Johnson’s tune “The Charleston” in 1923. It was brought to national attention by black dancer Josephine Baker in her role as “the donty-donty girl” in Jacques Offenbach’s revue La Folie du Jour (1926).

The Swing Band Era

Swing band music became popular in the early 1930s and continued to be popular through the 1940s. This type of music was different from the traditional jazz that had been popular up to that point. Swing band music was more structured and had a more danceable beat. This type of music was also more likely to be played by large ensembles.

Big Bands

Swing bands usually have a larger personnel than traditional jazz bands and they often include a choir of brass instruments and woodwinds in addition to the rhythm section instruments of piano, bass and drums. You’re just as likely to find a tuba or string bass in a swing band as you are an upright acoustic bass. A defining characteristic of swing music is the use of strong, soulful vocals, often performed by a male crooner accompanied by the band.

The big band era began in the early 1930s and lasted until the late 1940s. The largest and most popular swing bands were led by Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington and Count Basie. These bands were able to cross over into the pop music charts with their infectious sound, helping to make swing band music one of the most popular genres of the time.

The Swing Band Sound

The first thing you’ll notice when listening to swing band music is the sound. It’s very different from the fast, aggressive pace of bebop or the slow, mellow sound of traditional jazz. Swing bands usually have a large lineup with a minimum of five horns, including trumpets, trombones and saxophones. There’s also a rhythm section made up of a pianist, bassist, drummer and guitarist. The bandleader often doubles on clarinet or saxophone.

The horns play the melody while the rhythm section provides the beat. This gives swing band music a very distinct sound that is perfect for dancing. The horns also improvise around the melody, but they do so in a way that is much different from bebop. Instead of playing fast and aggressively, swing band horns take a more laid-back approach.

Swing band music became popular in the early 1930s and remained popular through the 1940s. It was influenced by both African-American and European musical traditions. African-American musicians brought elements of blues and gospel to the sound while European musicians added their own flavor to create something truly unique.

Swing Music Today

Swing band music has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the early 20th century. This type of music has been constantly evolving and has been influenced by a number of different genres. Today, swing band music is a popular style that is performed by many bands around the world.

Neo-Swing Bands

While traditional swing music was the primary dance music of its time, neo-swing bands have brought the style back into popularity in recent years. These groups often incorporate elements of other genres, such as rockabilly and ska, to create a unique sound. Many neo-swing bands formed in the 1990s and continue to be popular today. Swing band music still has a strong following, with many fans enjoying the upbeat tunes and dancers enjoying the lively beat.

Despite the popularity of swing music in the early 20th century, it faded from the mainstream in the latter half of the century. However, in recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in swing music, particularly among young people. This has led to the formation of new swing bands that are drawing on both the original styles of swing as well as more contemporary influences.

One of the most popular new swing bands is called “The Brian Setzer Orchestra.” The band’s leader, Brian Setzer, is a former member of the rockabilly band “The Stray Cats.” The band’s music combines elements of both rockabilly and swinging jazz, and their performances are known for being high-energy and exciting.

Another popular new swing band is “Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.” This band takes a more traditional approach to swing, drawing heavily on the sounds of Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Their music is perfect for dancing, and they often perform at large dance venues such as ballrooms and roller skating rinks.

If you’re interested in experiencing swing music firsthand, there are many ways to do so. You can attend a concert by one of these new bands, or you can listen to recordings of classic swing bands like Benny Goodman or Glenn Miller. You can also search online for videos ofswing dancing; this is a great way to see how this lively style of dancing is done.


In conclusion, swing band music and jazz are two distinct genres of music with different histories and origins. Swing band music is generally more light-hearted and accessible, while jazz is more complex and niche. However, both genres have influenced each other throughout the years, and many musicians have blended elements of both swing band music and jazz in their own work.

Similar Posts