George Datseris, Annika Ziereis, Thorsten Albrecht, York Hagmayer, Viola Priesemann, and Theo Geisel (2019)

Microtiming Deviations and Swing Feel in Jazz

Scientific Reports, 9(19824).

Jazz music that swings has the fascinating power to elicit a pleasant sensation of flow in listeners and the desire to synchronize body movements with the music. Whether microtiming deviations (MTDs), i.e. small timing deviations below the bar or phrase level, enhance the swing feel is highly debated in the current literature. Studies on other groove related genres did not find evidence for a positive impact of MTDs. The present study addresses jazz music and swing in particular, as there is some evidence that microtiming patterns are genre-specific. We recorded twelve piano jazz standards played by a professional pianist and manipulated the natural MTDs of the recordings in systematic ways by quantizing, expanding and inverting them. MTDs were defined with respect to a grid determined by the average swing ratio. The original and manipulated versions were presented in an online survey and evaluated by 160 listeners with various musical skill levels and backgrounds. Across pieces the quantized versions (without MTDs) were rated slightly higher and versions with expanded MTDs were rated lower with regard to swing than the original recordings. Unexpectedly, inversion had no impact on swing ratings except for two pieces. Our results suggest that naturally fluctuating MTDs are not an essential factor for the swing feel.

open access article

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