Swing rhythms aren’t only found in Jazz. They turn up all over the place – from children’s songs like Humpty Dumpty and Half a Pound of Tuppenny Rice, through to popular songs like When I’m Sixty-Four and She’s Electric. In fact, they can be found in every genre of music. As such, it’s an important strumming style to add to your guitar toolbox.
The basic swing rhythm is shown above. The first and third down strokes of each bar are accented. Although the time ratio of down to up strokes is written as 2:1, swing rhythms are felt rather than strictly counted and may be written as a series of equal-length notes (1:1) or with a dotted rhythm (3:1).
One way to get the feel for it is by strumming along to the rhyme,
“One potato, two potato, three potato, four.
Five potato, six potato, seven potato, more.”
It’s also worth listening to examples of ‘swung’ music to help you get a feel for the rhythm – there are plenty of examples out there!
To help you on your way, here is a PDF with 8 swing rhythms to help you as you work on strumming this style of music. Try out some of these rhythms with a simple swung song like The House of the Rising Sun (Am, C, Dm, F, Am, C, E – Am, C, Dm, F, Am, E, Am)