I am writing a song and in cubase (DAW) the score I get looks this. enter image description here

Is there really no better way to write this without using a 3 on top of each beat? Is there something I could put at the top of the piece since the whole song is a shuffle like this?

  • 3
    What is your intention with this - is the rhythm supposed to be a slow rock, shuffle, triplet swing, or lighter-than-triplet swing? Aug 21, 2019 at 11:40
  • 2
    If you look at the score for “Bolero” by Ravel, you’ll see it’s just packed with triplets. Aug 21, 2019 at 16:00
  • Or is your piece more in the classical music, soundtrack, or concert band vein? In those cases, swing indications are often inappropriate.
    – Dekkadeci
    Aug 21, 2019 at 16:55
  • 2
    First movement of the Moonlight Sonata? Aug 21, 2019 at 19:57
  • 1
    @DawoodibnKareem Good example - Most printings I've seen of the Moonlight have 3's over the triplets in the first measure, but then just leave the rest unmarked. It's pretty clearly implied that the same rhythm continues for the whole piece. This method of marking is pretty commonly used when the base part is just repeating a triplet pattern the whole time. Possibly less so in the case of a shuffle where it's 2-1, 2-1, 2-1, 2-1 instead of the 1-1-1, 1-1-1, 1-1-1, 1-1-1 pattern of the Moonlight et al. Aug 21, 2019 at 20:35

4 Answers 4


Probably the same as the keyword "shuffle", but wouldn't the below example get your intention across?

enter image description here

Edit: Another option is to indicate the triples for the first bar, then use the word 'simile' to show the idea is to continue this for the reminder of the piece:

enter image description here


A directive to perform the indicated passage of a composition in a similar manner as the previous passage; similarly. One common use is to designate the continuation of the use of an articulation without repeating the articulation symbol. Often abbreviated as sim. . similarly; i.e., continue applying the preceding directive, whatever it was, to the following passageto continue to do something in the same way it was formerly notated such as pedaling or staccatos

  • Mathematically, perhaps. But Shuffle and Swing are quite distinct feels. Difficult to describe in words, easy to hear.
    – Laurence
    Aug 21, 2019 at 15:25
  • 1
    @ Laurence. If the track is swing @ 100% then it is a shuffle isn't it?
    – user35708
    Aug 22, 2019 at 8:19
  • @MeanGreen thanks for this answer, but if I do use the "swing" bit at the top of my score I would still need to notate the triplets at the end of the first bar right?
    – user35708
    Aug 22, 2019 at 8:25
  • I don't think so. As other answers have mentioned, the number of notes in each bar (but also the fact you combined the last notes of the first bar into a group of 3) should be indication enough, though not extremely helpful to future readers. I've added another image as an alternative solution: the simile instruction.
    – MeanGreen
    Aug 22, 2019 at 9:21
  • @armani: if you have an actual triplet in addition to the swinging eights, it's best to write it as a triplet. Otherwise it will be very confusing to read, because without the "3" it will look like its total time value is one and a half quarter-notes. Aug 22, 2019 at 10:17

You'll see it done in all of these ways. 12/8 is the obvious answer. Straight 8s plus a 'Shuffle' instruction is useful if you're writing into a notation program like Sibelius - but you have to make sure 'Shuffle' IS defined in the Playback Dictionary. The third way will be understood by live musicians, but will confuse computer playback.

I recommend 12/8. Using 12/8 is completely clear and unambiguous both to humans and computers.

There's also the possibiity that you're playing with a Swing feel (not precise triplets), and triplets are Cubase's best guess. If this is the case, write straight 8's and 'Swing'.

enter image description here

  • 1
    We see 'swing' far more than 'shuffle'. Unless 'shuffle is what they define it as in Sibelius, et al. Or do I read the wrong music? And the last one seems too far away from swing/shuffle at 75/25%. 12/8 is what came to mind when the question was read. +1.
    – Tim
    Aug 21, 2019 at 12:41
  • 12/8 is often very hard to read if the rhythms are at all complicated.
    – PiedPiper
    Aug 21, 2019 at 17:40
  • Do you assume the OP means the song to be a shuffle? I think it's not clear at all what the intended rhythmic feeling or message to musicians is, and the notation shown is just a guess made by the software. Cubase won't be able to tell if your MIDI notes are trying to represent swing or shuffle or something. It's just a dumb machine. Aug 21, 2019 at 20:18
  • @Tim When reading music, I always assumed "shuffle" to be roughly equivalent to "swing", i.e. implying an uneven eighth-note division inside the beat. Was I off the mark the whole time? I thought the two were nearly identical (shuffle carrying stylistically different implications than swing, but nonetheless...)? (Or perhaps this is one of those terms that gets a little twist when it crosses the Atlantic, if you catch my drift...)
    – user45266
    Aug 22, 2019 at 3:56
  • @ Laurence, I have swing set at 100% in cubase and I realize that this could confuse the score plugin but among the swung notes there are lots of actual triplets and since the swing is set to 100% there is no doubt that it is a shuffle. Isn't your second example kind of the same as Meangreens? If so both are ideal since I only would need to write one word at the top of the score which would save me writing all those "3"s
    – user35708
    Aug 22, 2019 at 8:23

You might be able to use implicit tuplets if the groupings stay consistent throughout a significant section of the piece. Notate the first couple measures explicitly and let the musician figure it out from there (most moderately skilled musicians should be able to handle this). (Optionally, to make it more clear, you may want to add 'simile' or 'sim.' after the last explicitly marked tuple.) Again, this should only be used in long passages (preferably the entire piece) with consistent rhythmic groupings and patterns. Also, if the moderately skilled musician mentioned above can't figure it out, this probably isn't the best solution!

Here are a couple examples:

In Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu only the first sextuplet is notated and the rest are implied with slur markings, a repeated structural pattern and the fact that there are simply too many notes squeezed in. Also note that the melody (not shown) is written in non tuplets, making writing this in 12/8 impractical.

Fantasie Impromptu Snippet

In Schubert's Impromptu Op. 90 No. 3 we are not given any tuplet notation at all. Instead, the groupings are inferred by the fact that there are 6 notes when there should clearly only be 4.

Schubert Impromptu Snippet

EDIT: And, of course, Moonlight Sonata, as mentioned in the OP comments. :)

Moonlight Sonata

  • 1
    The melody of that Chopin piece is 8 notes for every 6 in the bass. To make those all line up on the beats without using tuplets would be insane. Also, playing that piece with mathematical precision would sound very robotic and wholly unsatisfying. You shouldn't be thinking about exactly where every note lies in the measure, but more about the overall flow they have. Aug 22, 2019 at 16:41
  • @DarrelHoffman Aligning the 8 over 6 polyrhythm (or rather, 4 over 3, twice) isn't terribly difficult at slower speeds. Fantasie Impromptu, however, is just about as far from "slower speeds" as you can get! Chopin's works are full of odd tuples (septets, octets, etc.), complicated polyrhythms (like 8 over 3) and out-of-time runs (essentially 10 - 30 note "tuplets"). All of these techniques intentionally break away from the precise timing found in classical and baroque styles and require a mental separation from the pulse, driving the music by feeling and emotion instead of technical precision.
    – WillRoss1
    Aug 22, 2019 at 17:28
  • @DarrelHoffman So yes, while you could theoretically pick them apart mathematically, doing so would effectively ruin the piece, as you said.
    – WillRoss1
    Aug 22, 2019 at 17:31

I'd write it in 12/8, it's easier to write. And to read. And it will be interpreted the same.

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