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So the combined 1/16 triplet and 1/8 note cover a quarter note. The question is does the 1/16 triplet cover a straight 1/8 note or does it cover the 1st two 1/8 notes of a set of an 1/8 triplet. So is the quarter note duration considered two straight 1/8 notes with the first being a 1/16 triplet or are the 1/8 notes swung as an 1/8 triplet with the first two 1/8 notes of the triplet used for the 1/16 triplet. I know I have verbosely stated the issue in two different ways as I am just trying to be clear. BTW Musescore if you export midi one gets a straight interpretation - two straight 1/8 notes the first being covered by a 1/16 triplet.

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    thanks folks, for the answers. I play by ear so what I play is 1/16 triplet in elongated 1/8 and then the short 1/8. Just wanted to understand the notation. Thanks again and Happy New Year! Jan 1, 2021 at 3:33
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    Thanks for asking! As per the site's idea it would be great if you could accept the answer which most clearly solved the issue for you. :) Jan 1, 2021 at 21:13

6 Answers 6


The second E and the C of the triplet on the third beat are purely ornamentation. Try playing the phrase without them, you'll find that you'll automatically swing those two notes. Then try to fit the triplet in the first (swing-elongated) eighth.


Too bad they didn't say if they meant "swing 8ths" or "swing 16ths". But the duration of three 1/16 triplets is the same as one 1/8th note. Here is how to count one and two and three and four and.

example explained

A triplet means that more stuff is squeezed in the same space. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuplet#Triplet

Do you mean to ask, if "swing" means "swing 8ths", then does the triplet cancel the swing? Well... I'd say, it's up to interpretation. The exact strength of swing is up to interpretation anyway. FWIW, I tried playing the third beat completely without swing, and it sounded stupid.

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    There are no 16ths to swing, so I'm pretty certain it won't be swung 16ths!
    – Judy N.
    Jan 1, 2021 at 0:41
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    @JudyN. Where did you find the rest of the song? Jan 1, 2021 at 0:42
  • Haha, touché...
    – Judy N.
    Jan 1, 2021 at 0:42
  • Although of course if it is swing 16ths, one plays it precisely as it is written, so there is no conundrum
    – Judy N.
    Jan 1, 2021 at 0:44

The basic swing feel is to elongate the first eighth note of the beat and shorten the second, depending on the feel, it could be anywhere from close to even to a triplet feel where the first eighth is twice as long as the first. For your example, I would play the triplets in the time of a first eighth note with an even amount of time for each with the second eighth shortened. I wouldn't worry about whether to swing the triplets at all since they're playing fairly quickly (about 0.13s each) and the variation of length of the notes at that tempo won't be something heard so much as felt.

  • When I just play it (looking at the audio or midi) I play with the 1/16 triplet in the elongated 1/8 and the G in the shortened 1/8 and it sounds right. Just wondered why Musescore's algorithm Jan 1, 2021 at 3:30

Your comment's pretty much right on the money. To formalize it a little, in X:Y swing, the triplets "ought" be counted three-against-X.

This is dead simple if you're strictly counting a 3:2 "pentuplet swing", you just come down on each pentuplet.

In a strict 2:1 "triplet swing", it's a little more difficult, you'll need to divide your beat into nine so you can come down like so


but you can probably (and, arguably, should) feel it ("fudge it", if you're cynical) in most contexts


'Swing' can be translated into a 12/8 equivalent. Yes, I know it can vary considerably between almost straight and totally swing, but for an explanation to answer the question. Read on before dving!

It's swing quavers (eighth notes), so if we put a count of 12 in for the bar, here goes.

The first G comes in on --3, followed by the two triads on 4 and 6. That puts the triplet semis on 7 and 8, so the G comes on 9, leaving the last part on 10 and 12. Since the triplet semis are just that - a triplet, they can be played as such. There's no need to 'swing' them - in fact, it's better played as a triplet.

Referring to my first paragraph, the swing can be as soft or hard as you want, but now at least everything is in its place clearly.

  • Another unexplained dv! Reasons are accepted!
    – Tim
    Jan 2, 2021 at 10:17

I would play this by elongating the E-G dyad slightly and playing the following three notes as a triplet within the remaining time. However, in doing that, I'm not trying to play in a metrically precise way; I rely on feel.

I'm playing something in between these two approximations.

X: 1
T: Approximation 1
T: E-G is too long here
M: 4/4
K: C
{/^d}[eg](3e/2c/2G/2 [Fc]
X: 1
T: Approximation 2
T: E-G is too short here
M: 4/4
K: C
{/^d}[eg]/2e/2c/2G/2 [Fc]

My E-G dyad is a big shorter than Approximation 1, but a bit longer than Approximation 2.

  • Neither of your examples correspond to the notation as written. You can get away with changing the rhythm if you're playing solo, but in a section that's not going to work.
    – PiedPiper
    Dec 31, 2020 at 22:22
  • @PiedPiper Yes, that's true. I called them approximations rather than examples because of that departure from the literal notation. And you also correctly note that I'm presuming a solo player. In an ensemble I'd ask the group, the section leader, or the direction how they'd like to play the figure.
    – Aaron
    Dec 31, 2020 at 22:53

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