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I am studying Les Claypool's bass style, and for this, I am making a single gp5 file with some of his most iconic bass riffs to study. So I got them all together and don't need to open a file for each song (and edit all different song files to show only the main riff, which is my focus).

The point is, for the song Fisticuffs, the tab file I have shows this “indication” just after the BPM value of the song, which I translate as the eighth notes of the song being equal to a quarter + an eighth:
tab with a tempo indication followed by an equation: a pair of eighth notes equal to a slurred quarter note and a eighth note

But when I try to copy and paste the 4 bars of this riff to my “Primus riffs” compilation gp5 file, this modified value does not apply, and it sounds different to how it should, even though the bars look exactly the same.

So, as you may have guessed, I am not an expert in music theory or notation, and I was wondering:

  1. What's the correct way to mention this kind of stuff? What is it called?
  2. Is it permanent for the whole song/tab file duration, or can be switched on/off, like a tempo or time signature change?
  3. How can you add/edit this kind of stuff in TuxGuitar, Guitar Pro, or MuseScore?

3 Answers 3

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That indication is not a tempo indication but means "swing the eighth notes." In other words, when you see two eighth notes as shown to the left of that equals sign, play them as if they were a quarter-eighth triplet (there ought to be a 3 with that slur) as shown on the right. See for example

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  • I see. Thank you so much! If it was on, for example, a pdf file. and I couldn´t listen to it, I would have struggled to even guess how to play it. But being able to listen to it thanks to modern software (although Tuxguitar is not exactly "modern" nowadays), playing it is not a problem. My doubt is more about how the writing of such stuff works on any of the software mentioned, (I use tuxguitar on a daily basis, but can use also musescore and GP).But trust me that your fast answer and those links are very much appreciated! So thanks again!
    – alniro
    Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 12:21
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For ease and simplicity, those quavers (1/8 notes) are written out as if they're straight eighths.

The sign means that they're not played as such. They're played swing, with the first of each two held for approximately twice as long as the second one. I call it the 'Humpty Dumpty' rhythm, but don't know if that translates well into Spanish!

Swing is quite close to 2/3 +1/3, and often is exactly that. Rather like writing the whole thing in 12/8 time, but it's easier to write, and read, the way it says on top of that music.

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  • Thank you very much as well! I had never heard about 'Humpty Dumpty', but your explanation was great and quite easy to understand even for a self-taught musician with just the most basic notation knowledge like me. I hope I will end up finding out how to edit such stuff or how to replicate it on another tab. Since this forum looked awesome even before I had two helpful answers in a matter of less of an hour. Which is way beyond my expectancies! Thanks again, Tim!
    – alniro
    Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 12:31
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  1. What's the correct way to mention this kind of stuff? What is it called?

This is called Swing. Swing is when the eighth notes that are played on the beat are to be played a little longer than is actually written, and eighth notes off the beat are played a little shorter (to compensate).

It's much easier to write and read music with a swing indication at the top, than having all the actual note values written out explicitly.


But there is something wrong with that image, there really should be a little 3 above the bracket. This is important because this type of swing is triplet swing. A triplet swing indication should look something like this:
a pair of eighth notes, equal sign, a quarter note and a eighth note under at triplet bracket

This "eighth note value modifier" equation is indicating triplet swing; that the ratio for the played value of the eighth notes is 2:1.

Another type of swing is hard swing which has a ratio of 3:1, this is represented by:
a pair of eighth notes, equal sign, a dotted eight note tide to a sixteenth note

Often the eighth note value modifier isn't written explicitly though, swing is often just indicated with the word Swing, and the amount of swing is left up to the performers to interpret.


2. Is it permanent for the whole song/tab file duration, or can be switched on/off, like a tempo or time signature change?

If a piece of music has swing, it usually has a constant amount of swing throughout the whole piece. But if you need to, you can cancel swing with the word(s) Straight (eighths), or with an equation:
a pair of eighth notes, equal sign, a pair of eighth notes


3. How can you add/edit this kind of stuff in TuxGuitar, Guitar Pro, or MuseScore?

I don't know about TuxGuitar or GuitarPro, but you can definitely get swing to work with MuseScore:

You can find Swing in the Tempo palette, attach this to the first note in your score, and then right-click on it and open System test properties. Here you can set the the swing ratio (percent). Triplet swing will be about 67%. (If you want hard swing it will be 75%.)
MuseScore system text properties, showing swing ratio

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