Difference Between Bebop and Swing

By: | Updated: Jul-11, 2022
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By now, you may have come across the terms bebop and swing. While they sound similar in some aspects, it is important to know the difference between these two styles of jazz music. This article will help you to understand the difference between these two. It is important to learn the difference so that you can identify and appreciate each one in its own right.

Summary Table

Bebop Swing
Popular in the 1940s to 1950s Popular in the 1930s to 1940s and after 1950s
Complex rhythms and improvisation Simple rhythms which repeats
Fast tempo Chill tempo

Difference Between Bebop and Swing


Bebop has been around for a long time, and there are many musicians who consider it as one of the most influential types of jazz music. It was first noticed in the 1940s and 1950s when musicians like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and The lonious Monk made their mark. While bebop tends to have a fast tempo, it is also known to have a lot of improvisation. This means that you will do not hear much of the same melody. Although you may not hear the same melody, there are still certain rules that are followed.

Swing has also been around for a long time. It was first noticed in the 1930s and 1940s during the Harlem Renaissance and swing eras. Back then, swing was quite popular, but with the advent of bebop, swing started to lose popularity. Some believe that swing is a mixture of bebop and blues music. It has been noticed that the rhythm of swing music is simple compared to bebop. However, it is usually much faster than the jazz music you have heard before.

Bebop vs Swing

Bebop was developed in the mid to late 1930s and reached its peak during the 1940s and early 1950s. As jazz became more popular, bebop was widely emulated by musicians. Bebop is considered the first major style of jazz. Swing developed as a reaction to bebop and was characterized by more relaxed tempos and simpler chord progressions. Swing became popular with big bands during the late 1930s and 1940s but did not become an essential element of jazz until the 1950s.

The main difference between bebop and swing is that bebop focuses on improvisation and swing does not. The melody of bebop has a lot of improvisation and complex rhythms that do not repeat. On the other hand, swing tends to have simple rhythm and melodies, which usually repeat themselves over a long period of time.

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Another distinctive feature of bebop is the use of complex forms (multi-bar or multi-part compositions). Bebop often used extended improvised soloing over relatively simple chords and melodies. It was also a highly lyrical genre, with complex harmonies and melodies. Swing is often characterized by simpler chord progressions and simpler melodies.

The feel of bebop consisted of fast tempos, using quick sequences (chords) and melodic improvisation, while swing was played in a more relaxed, “chill” manner, using slower tempos and simpler chord progressions.

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