Difference Between Jazz and Swing

Jazz vs Swing

Swing is a kind of jazz music that was once very popular, especially during 1930’s. It remained dominant till the end of WW II. There are many similarities between jazz and swing making people confused as they find it hard to differentiate between these two music styles. This article takes a closer look at the two musical traditions to find out their differences.


Jazz music is a kind of music that originated from the musical legacy of the African American communities in the United States in the early part of the 20th century. This was a music that resulted with the fusion of the European and African musical traditions in the southern states of the US. It has been influenced by the popular American music too, and today jazz is a heady mix of all these musical styles. Jazz is a continuously evolving music that has a rich history of more than a hundred years.

Jazz is a music that surfaced when the African communities who migrated into US confronted the European music. It is a kind of music that is not constrained or rigid like other schools or traditions of music, and there is a lot of improvisation in jazz music. It is one genre of music that has contributed significantly to the world of art and culture, especially American music.

If you do not get an idea of what jazz music is by reading its definitions, it is better think of it as music with a strong meter, rhythmic patterns, lots of improvisation, and a distinctive tone that characterizes African carefree attitude and outlook for life in general. In fact, words fall short to describe completely this musical genre that has been evolving till date and incorporates many different musical influences.


Swing is a kind of rhythmic music within the genre of jazz that became popular in the thirties and continued till the forties. It was an improvisation and played by big bands with 10-20 members in front of large audiences with many of them dancing. This is also the reason why swing era is also referred to as the big band era. Swing is also referred to as a rhythmic style within jazz that forces the listener to swing. It all started when jazz artists experimented with string bass and eighth notes and adopted a casual and more relaxed rhythmic feeling. Louis Armstrong was the most prominent of jazz musicians who initiated this style during the thirties. While jazz had all along been pleasing to hear and very relaxing, it was the swing era that turned jazz into feet tapping music, a kind that forced people to come out to the dance floor to dance and groove.

In 1929, when the great depression hit America, all music industry was shattered. The style of swing music was created to let people forget their financial worries and shake their legs on the dance floors. Some of the most popular big bands that played swing music in this era were Duke Ellington’s and Count Basie’s.

What is the difference between Jazz and Swing?

• Swing is a style within the genre of music called jazz.

• Swing incorporated more rhythm to make jazz a dancing style of music.

• Swing became popular in the 30’s and continued till the end of WW II.

• Swing is a music style that is a type of jazz and not in conflict of this genre.

• Swing is more rhythmical and lively than other forms of jazz music.

• Swing music was performed by big bands in front of dancing audiences.