I find myself using the dotted eight - sixteenth rhythm pattern/figure a lot and I would like to know if there is a specific name for it. I know the reverse pattern sixteenth - dotted eighth is referred to as the Scotch snap so I would assume that dotted eight - sixteenth has some kind of name.


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  • Are you using it as a rhythm pattern or as a rhythmic pattern for playing in solos?
    – Tim
    Nov 2, 2014 at 11:53
  • @Tim it's just a rhythm pattern.
    – Dom
    Nov 2, 2014 at 12:52
  • with all due respect, is it what I call the 'Humpty Dumpty' rhythm, of 1st and third triplets of each beat - a much commoner pattern than the one you've annotated?
    – Tim
    Nov 2, 2014 at 14:06
  • @Tim I use both and I know the swing/shuffle eight notes pattern is more common, but this patter has an ever so slightly different feel to it and it changes the texture of the harmony so I would expect them to be called different then the swing/shuffle eighths.
    – Dom
    Nov 2, 2014 at 14:23
  • 1
    how does it change the texture of the harmony? It'll change the feel, certainly, but harmony ? Do you mean it allows push notes at the end of a bar?
    – Tim
    Nov 2, 2014 at 14:25

2 Answers 2


There's a lot of confusion between 'swing' and 'shuffle' terminology. And actually, there is a sort of feel between the two, which technically is neither. The beats in a 4/4 bar can be subdivided. If each beat becomes three triplets, it becomes effectively a 12/8 bar.If the first and last of each triplet are played, it's sometimes called a swing feel. The next way to split each beat is to make it four semiquavers, but play on the first and last of each per beat. This puts the last bit of each beat slightly later than in the first example.

In the 4os, and 50s, the triplet feel was prevalent in a lot of popular music - think 'swing bands'. Rock and roll came in , late 50s, early 60s, and the feel changed to the second example, far more of a 'straight' feel. During the changeover years, many tracks were played with, for instance, the band playing a swing feel, and the soloist playing what I call a 'shuffle' feel.Chuck Berry and Elvis (separately !) used this feel.Sometimes, the 'feel' morphed into an amalgam of the two - name unknown to me.

Unlike Shev, I play more jazz using a triplet feel than using the example in Dom's question. However, it will depend what the number is, and how the band decides it's going to be played, and sometimes which era the tune is from. Dom's example tends to come out as more of a 'straight' feel.

Check out 'shuffle'and 'swing', although, as I said, it's not as simple as it's either one or the other, as the definitions are blurred, and it depends who you talk to.

  • You mention shuffle, and you mention a rhythm where each beat is divided into four semiquaver, with the first and last semiquaver of each beat being played. But you don't explicitly connect the two. Is the semiquaver division describing "shuffle" feel? May 8, 2018 at 23:06

The sixteenth > dotted eighth pattern is called a Scotch snap because it is a dominant rhythmic feature of the Scottish folk dance form the strathspey.

Similarly in traditional music circles I've heard the dotted eighth > sixteenth pattern described as a 'hornpipe rhythm', because it is a distinctive feature mark of hornpipe tunes.

Things are complicated by the fact that a lot of sheet music transcriptions use the dotted eighth > sixteenth notation, but experienced players play the rhythm much closer to a triplet where the first two notes are joined, giving a 2>1 rhythm ...

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