What is DAW Swing?: Finding A Better Groove

Beat MakingMusic Gear
What is DAW Swing?: Finding A Better Groove

I got tired of feeling like a music making robot.

Machines are mega fun to work with. They’re my go-to for making beats. But lately i’ve noticed a big downside.

My tracks started sounding lifeless, rigid and stiff. They were quantized to death. They almost sounded too perfect.

It’s time to give music production its humanity back. Here’s how.

Groove Yourself Back to Life

Swing—sometimes called Groove or Shuffle—is the addition of tiny delays to every other hit of a beat.

It’s used to mimic the natural sound of a real human drummer. Drums are usually responsible for the overall groove of your track. That’s why real life drummers are always so cool.

Most DAWs come with swing functions built in. Use it on your beats to give them their groove back.

Quantized to Death

This is how my beat sounded before adding swing:

As you can hear, it’s a bit stiff… Time to fix it up.

How to Get The Organic Touch

In this example I set up a simple Drum loop so you can see swing in action. But feel free to experiment with swing on other parts of your track.

Even though the specifics can differ between DAWs all the basic concepts are the same. Here’s how to do it in Abelton:

  1. Find the part of your track that you want to apply swing to.
  2. In the ‘Swing and Groove’ tab select the type of swing you want to play around with. In this example I’m using the MPC 8 Swing-75.


  1. Drag your Swing of choice into the Groove tray in your Clip
  2. Preview the swing until you find one you like.
  3. Click commit when it’s sounding it’s best. This will apply the groove to your track permanently.

Commit to Your Best Sound

After clicking commit your drum pattern will actually move depending on the swing. Here you can see how the hits moved accordingly:


The Shuffled Result

This is the same drum loop with the swing applied:

There is a great shuffled effect that gives the loop the life it needed. No more stiff-as-a-board syncopation.

How swing will work for your track varies. Experiment with all the swing presets in your audio mix to find the groove gold that fits your track.

Experiment With Your Groove

Something I do all the time is layer the original track with the swing track. It gives you the best of both rhythms. Here’s what it sounds like:

The layered patterns create an interesting effect that’s equal parts human and machine.

There’s no right or wrong way to use swing. But when your track is needing some life swing is the best place to look.

So use swing whenever you need it. And welcome your song back to the land of the living.



Rory Seydel

Rory Seydel is a musician, writer and father who takes pleasure in touring the world and making records. Creative Director at LANDR.

@Rory Seydel

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