Today’s article is going to cover a topic that somewhat sparked the idea to write about Kingdom Hearts Union Cross music in the first place. As the music that plays after every single victory, I have heard the “Victory Fanfare” probably hundreds if not thousands of times at this point. It’s a very upbeat, playful theme, and has a strong swing feel to it—which brings me to the topic of interest today: what is the difference between swing time and compound time?
As usual, let’s first listen to “Victory Fanfare”:
A little while ago, I wrote an article that details the differences between simple, compound, and irregular time (also about a track from Kingdom Hearts ;P). For those of you who haven’t read that article yet though, I’ll quickly go over simple time and compound time again now. If this topic interests you, please go read that article! ^_^
Simple time signatures are those in which each strong beat can be divided evenly in two. Think 2/4, 3/4, 4/4… When each beat is subdivided in two—for example, 4/4 can be counted as 1+2+3+4+ —then the piece is in simple time.
Compound time signatures are those in which each strong beat is divided unevenly in three. Think 6/8, 9/8, 12/8… When each beat is subdivided in three—for example, 6/8 can be counted as 1+a 2+a—then the piece is in compound time.
So what is swing time? Swing time actually shares characteristics of both simple time and compound time. Music that is swung is usually written in simple time, but has a compound feel.
What does this look and sound like? Here’s an example of a series of eighth notes in a measure of 4/4, first played straight, then played swung.
Swing time often has a note in parantheses, as you’ll see here, how two eighth notes have the feel of eighth note triplets, but with the second of the three triplets missing.
Swung music sounds like compound time, but without the “and”/the second of the three subdivisions—that is, it’s the same as simple time, but with an extra empty subdivision squeezed in between each strong beat. The above example could technically be written like this, in compound time, with the exact same sound:
The exact difference between swing time and compound time is that swing time is notated in and can be played as simple time. Compound time often has notes that fill in each of the three subdivisions of each strong beat, but although swing time sounds like compound time, rarely does it actually have three notes in each strong beat.
Here is “Victory Fanfare”, notated with straight eighth notes, first played as straight eighth notes, then played how it is originally, in swing time.
Sounds super different, doesn’t it!? Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with straight eighth notes, but when a melody is swung, it simply gives the whole piece a more laid back and cheerful feel. Rarely will you hear depressing music that is swung! ;P That little extra invisible subdivision pushes the melody out just a tiny bit, to create a sense of casual non-urgency: you just won a battle and you have nothing to worry about now. ♪
Stay tuned for more Single-Track Analysis Articles of tracks from Kingdom Hearts Unchained X / Kingdom Hearts Union Cross! One article every day in the month of April 2017!