# Shuffle style in the time signature/tempo

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?

• 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

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

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.

• I reckon OP has split 4/4 into 12/8, which gives swing time more clearly.
– Tim
Mar 29, 2020 at 11:33
• 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. 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.

• 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
• Both! The answer's in the last sentence. 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. 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