I've recently been composing more directly with MuseScore as opposed to on my guitar and memory via repetition. This, however, is more tricky rhythm-wise, perhaps since I've never been a score reader or writer. Transcribing an audibly simple rhythm, example of first 2 bars of a composition I wrote (that took just about forever) is hard. When doing something from scratch, it's worse as you could forget the rhythmic phrase you had in mind or not know how or if you should divide it into voices.

What would be a good way to practice notating rhythm? Usually, I don't hear subdivisions and just know what to play for how long, and I don't count. Trying to mouth it to an excessively low bpm sometimes works, but with the example I had to play around with durations until I hit it by chance; could've been 13:7 tuplets for all I knew..

3 Answers 3


To be honest, as a professional-level keyboard player, I didn't have the faintest idea what the rhythm notation in your Musescore example was supposed to mean. It's completely unreadable, and therefore unplayable by humans.

(Note, the music is fine - it's only the notation that is horrible!)

But from the computer playback in Musescore, it's actually a straightforward "swing" rhythm when you put the beats in the right place:

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Unfortunately, I don't have any good advice on how to learn this, but "trial and error" with a notation program is NOT going to teach you how to do it correctly.

Try to find a course on the web (since you need audio examples to listen to and write down) and start right from the beginning. A human teacher would be an even better option.

It might help if you record yourself singing the rhythm, and then try to "count it out" while playing back your singing.

  • Part of the problem is almost certainly that OP is playing with slightly swung eighths, and the transcriber is choking on that. If OP is able to replay it with straight eighths, it might have an easier time with that. (But in my experience, most computer transcribers aren't yet capable of figuring out what's intended without some guidance.)
    – Brian Tung
    Apr 26, 2017 at 23:22

Assuming that the smallest rhythmic subdivision you commonly use is the semiquaver (16th note), the following ideas should really help. Learn to recognise the sound of groups of notes: dotted crotchet, quaver; dotted quaver, semiquaver; semiquaver, quaver, semiquaver; quaver triplets; crotchet triplets, and the various combinations of inserting semiquaver rests into a group of four semiquavers. Type them into MusiScore and play them back until you recognise each of them. That's really not a lot of patterns to learn, and it will help you think in 'words', rather than 'letters'. Secondly, if you can place crotchets accurately, move on to quavers. If your idea doesn't sit correctly with quavers try semiquavers. You only have to choose between four to decide where your note should sit. The ability to count '1 e an a' has gotten me out of more musical scrapes than Batman's Utility Belt could ever do. Next, work on ties. Work from tied crotchets, then quavers, then semiquavers. At this stage I'll stop short of discussing swing. Best to get this stuff sorted first.


Actually, 'trying to mouth it to an excessively low bpm' is the most surefire way to both get the rhythm you want AND to improve your proficiency. Eventually, the bpm will no longer be 'excessively low' every time.

If these are rhythms you are spontaneously creating, by ear, in a reasonably established style, then you're very unlikely to come up with something that is '13:7 tuplets'. In fact, most beats are subdivided into 2,3,4,6,8, or perhaps 9 or 12 subdivisions. A feel for which of these is most appropriate will come with practice.

If you find that the rhythm is difficult to notate, you might be trying to notate something that has a lot of rubato (push & pull), but notating it VERY literally the way you hear it. Conventionally, such flexible rhythms won't be perfectly reflected in the notated product, and are instead rendered much more 'squarely' in triplets or sixteenth-notes (semiquavers). The composer or arranger relies upon the musician to render the rubato in a way that is appropriate to the style.

I am making a lot of assumptions here about your intentions and influences, but I hope it's a helpful start.

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