I'm tabbing out a song on bass, which consists partly of a swing rhythm. I'm wondering how to properly convey a swing rhythm (or more generally, triplets) using tabs.

Here is the part as I've written it now:

   q q q q   q s ts ts t

q - quarter note
e - eighth note
s - quarter triplet (sss=q)
t - eighth triplet (ttt=e)

Technically, it's written correctly, but it doesn't seem very easy to read...

Is there a better way? Or is it a fool's errand to try to cram so much rhythmical information in tablature and should I either leave it out or go for musical notation?

  • 3
    Simplest is to write 'swing' at the top. A lot of music written out on staves in 4/4 has that. And/or a crotchet = crotchet + quaver triplet.
    – Tim
    Jan 16, 2019 at 23:02

2 Answers 2


If you're limited to ascii art, then this may be the best you can do. If you have paper, however, you could draw beams to show rhythms.

IIRC transcriptions in Guitar World and Guitar School magazines both used this style of indicating rhythm. You just treat the numbers as if they were the dots in standard staff notation and draw stems and flags or beams.


In this case you could write it like Tim says in 4/4 (Swing) or transcribe the music in 12/8 measure.

Or us:


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