Despite what many people think, Big Band music is not swing music, but swing music can be big band. Big Band is exactly what it is called, a large band of musicians usually comprised of more than 12 instruments. This does not describe the style of music played, however. Big band can and often has been latin music, swing jazz music and even rock & roll music. Therefore, it is important to note the difference between big band and swing music and one must also realize that not all big bands were swing bands.
Other than swing jazz, the term "swing music" can also referr to any style of music that is very common to swing dance to. These swing danceable styles of music includes 20s hot jazz, swing jazz, jump & jive, jump blues, blues, rhythm & blues, very early rock & roll, rockabilly and neo-swing which is also referred to as retro-swing.
In general, swing music is up-tempo, often joyous, with a wide, full sound with a driving forward momentum syncopated rhythm. The music is usually in 4/4 or 4/8 timing with the emphasis on the even beats. In its purest form it is a flexible platform from which individual musicians can be creative while still contributing harmoniously to the whole.