Developments in dance orchestra and jazz music during the 1920s both contributed to the development of the 1930s swing style. Starting in 1923, the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra featured innovative arrangements by Don Redman that featured call-response interplay between brass and reed sections, and interludes arranged to back up soloists. The arrangements also had a smoother rhythmic sense than the ragtime-influenced arrangements that were the more typical "hot" dance music of the day. In 1924 Louis Armstrong joined the Henderson band, lending impetus to an even greater emphasis on soloists. The Henderson band also featured Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, and Buster Bailey as soloists, who all were influential in the development of swing era instrumental styles. During the Henderson band's extended residency at the Roseland Ballroom in New York, it became influential on other big bands. Duke Ellington credited the Henderson band with being an early influence when he was developing the sound for his own band. In 1925 Armstrong left the Henderson band and would add his innovations to New Orleans style jazz to develop Chicago style jazz, another step towards swing.
Traditional New Orleans style jazz was based on a two-beat meter and contrapuntal improvisation led by a trumpet or cornet, typically followed by a clarinet and trombone in a call-response pattern. The rhythm section consisted of a sousaphone and drums, and sometimes a banjo. By the early 1920s guitars and pianos sometimes substituted for the banjo and a string bass sometimes substituted for the sousaphone. Use of the string bass opened possibilities for 4/4 instead of 2/4 time at faster tempos, which increased rhythmic freedom. The Chicago style released the soloist from the constraints of contrapuntal improvisation with other front-line instruments, lending greater freedom in creating melodic lines. Louis Armstrong used the additional freedom of the new format with 4/4 time, accenting the second and fourth beats and anticipating the main beats with lead-in notes in his solos to create a sense of rhythmic pulse that happened between the beats as well as on them, i.e. swing.
In 1927 Armstrong worked with pianist Earl Hines, who had a similar impact on his instrument as Armstrong had on trumpet. Hines' melodic, horn-like conception of playing deviated from the contemporary conventions in jazz piano centered on building rhythmic patterns around "pivot notes." His approaches to rhythm and phrasing were also free and daring, exploring ideas that would define swing playing. His approach to rhythm often used accents on the lead-in instead of the main beat, and mixed meters, to build a sense of anticipation to the rhythm and make his playing swing. He also used "stops" or musical silences to build tension in his phrasing. Hines' style was a seminal influence on the styles of swing-era pianists Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum, Jess Stacy, Nat "King" Cole, Erroll Garner, Mary Lou Williams, and Jay McShann.
Black territory dance bands in the southwest were developing dynamic styles that often went in the direction of blues-based simplicity, using riffs in a call-response pattern to build a strong, danceable rhythm and provide a musical platform for extended solos. The rhythm-heavy tunes for dancing were called "stomps." The requirement for volume led to continued use of the sousaphone over the string bass with the larger ensembles, which dictated a more conservative approach to rhythm based on 2/4 time signatures. Meanwhile, string bass players such as Walter Page were developing their technique to the point where they could hold down the bottom end of a full-sized dance orchestra.
The growth of radio broadcasting and the recording industry in the 1920s allowed some of the more popular dance bands to gain national exposure.
The most popular style of dance orchestra was the "sweet" style, often with strings. Paul Whiteman developed a style he called "symphonic jazz," grafting a classical approach over his interpretation of jazz rhythms in an approach he hoped would be the future of jazz. Whiteman's Orchestra enjoyed great commercial success and was a major influence on the sweet bands. Jean Goldkette's Victor Recording Orchestra featured many of the top white jazz musicians of the day including Bix Beiderbecke, Jimmy Dorsey, Frank Trumbauer, Pee Wee Russell, Eddie Lang, and Joe Venuti. The Victor Recording Orchestra won the respect of the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra in a Battle of the Bands; Henderson's cornetist Rex Stewart credited the Goldkette band with being the most influential white band in the development of swing music before Benny Goodman's. As a dance music promoter and agent, Goldkette also helped organize and promote McKinney's Cotton Pickers and Glen Gray's Orange Blossoms (later the Casa Loma Orchestra), two other Detroit-area bands that were influential in the early swing era.