Thanks to the covid, I have to take over some music teaching from my son's piano teacher. He's preparing a swing piece for ABRSM Grade 1, and plays each 2 quavers in 'shuffle' style 2/12+1/12 instead of 1/8+1/8. I like the way it sounds, but I'm concerned that the examiners may not agree. Does that extra note in brackets after the tempo have anything to do with this?

tempo for the piece

  • 2
    ABRSM usually has some examples to listen to on line. Try listening to them. I guess it's the one in key G.
    – Tim
    Mar 29, 2020 at 11:34

2 Answers 2


plays each 2 quavers in 'shuffle' style 2/12+1/12 instead of 1/8+1/8

That's exactly what he is supposed to do! When you see this

enter image description here

at the start of a piece, you are basically told not to play straight eighths, but shuffle eighths (triplets like they are shown above -- that would be 2/12 and 1/12 like you said, although I've never heard anyone call them that).

I don't see why the examiners wouldn't agree with that. The tempo marking you've provided explicitly asks for this kind of rhythm.

  • 1
    I reckon OP has split 4/4 into 12/8, which gives swing time more clearly.
    – Tim
    Mar 29, 2020 at 11:33
  • 1
    Don't take this too literal. True Swing is somewhere between 8ths and triplets, still, it is a style of playing very briefly noted like that; and there are implicit other freedoms regarding interpretation, such as anticipation, varying durations and dynamic phrasing just to cite a few.
    – fde-capu
    Mar 29, 2020 at 11:35
  • @fde-capu - true swing is where true swing is, in each number, with each performer/group. It certainly isn't 8ths, and could well be triplets.
    – Tim
    Mar 29, 2020 at 13:31

There's SO much irritating about that tempo indication! All it needed was 'Swing q=120', or maybe 'swing 8s q=120'. What does 'c.120' mean? Indecision - 'pick a tempo somewhere round 120'? Fluctuation - 'play rubato centered on 120'? FFS just say 'q=120'. It's not as if the police are standing there with a metronome, we're going to play it how we want anyway! (Unless there's a click track involved, but ABRSM hasn't got into this reality of modern music-making yet.) Then there's that horrible 'Metric Modulation' notation. No, Swing isn't triplets. Just say 'Swing'.

But the intention, if not the instruction, is clear. Play 'em swung.

  • 4
    Is this an answer or a rant? In the video, the player's at around 136bpm. It does help particularly beginners to have a tempo guide, and it's certainly a bit more accurate than 'andante'...Don't think marks get deducted for exceeding the speed limit, though.
    – Tim
    Mar 29, 2020 at 13:46
  • 1
    Both! The answer's in the last sentence.
    – Laurence
    Mar 29, 2020 at 14:06
  • Nothing irritating about the tempo indication. It's exactly what's needed. What's that 'q' in 'q=120'? What's wrong with 'c.120'? It's pretty common and perfectly clear. Mar 29, 2020 at 20:42
  • It's difficult to type a quarter-note symbol in a passage of text, so musicians conventionally use 'q' for quarter-note, 'h' for half etc.
    – Laurence
    Mar 29, 2020 at 20:58
  • In answer to the 1st question - c.120 means circa 120bpm - around that tempo. So +/- 10% would be o.k. Don't think it's short for 'crotchet'!
    – Tim
    Mar 30, 2020 at 7:40

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