Rhythm notation help needed

Hi all - I’m starting to construct a ‘lick book’ and I’m using Guitar Pro so that I have playable tabs of my licks and I know I have the rhythms correct.
I’ve got a simple lick that I can’t quite get the rhythm notated correctly for. I have a vague memory of the lick coming from Justin and I’m pretty sure there was mention of triplets involved, but I just can’t seem to get it right.
Here’s the lick (played 3 times)

and here’s my best guess at the notation (I know it’s not quite right!)

Any help would be greatly appreciated!


I don’t have Guitar Pro available at the moment, but I hear the rhythm as follows:

‘and 1 and 2 and 3 and’ - played with a shuffle feel.

 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +     1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

-----------------   -----------------
-----------------   ---5-------------
---------------5-   -6---7-5-6-----5-
-----------------   -----------7-----
-----------------   -----------------
-----------------   -----------------

(The last note being the same as the first one, where the lick starts over).

There are different options to write out a shuffle pattern, depending on how slow/fast the shuffle feels. This involves the use of different note lengths and dotted notes. Not only is it cumbersome to write it out like this, it’s also difficult to read.

Therefore, it’s often desired to stick with regular eight notes and indicate ‘play with shuffle feel’ once at the top of the score. Like this:

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Okay, this was fun. This is what I got. Looks pretty similar to yours @mathsjunky


Here’s a guitarpro file if you want to listen to compare: Dropbox - Swing Lick.gp - Simplify your life

I’m not sure if GP can do a real, human swing rhythm. But that swings when I hit play…

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You have got people working on this! :slight_smile:

My take:

I just chose 90 bpm without figuring out your true tempo.
Swung or shuffle-groove 8ths. You don’t have a backing and you play your repeats in quicker succession than I have here with the repeated bars.
I hear it as starting on the ‘a’ after 4.
I use ‘a’ instead of ‘&’ when counting shuffle.
1 a 2 a 3 a 4 a
As opposed to straight 8ths
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

Guitar Pro file in Dropbox:

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@Jeff / @jkahn / @Richard_close2u

Awesome - thanks all. Looks like I’ve uncovered not only my inability to notate rhythm but also my ability to use Guitar Pro!! All of you hit on the ‘triplet feel’ thing that I didn’t even know existed.
It does sound right with regular 8th notes and a swing feel.
Really appreciate all the effort you guys put in to this … I’m now working on transcribing some Clapton licks from Hideaway … that might be more challenging, but with my newfound knowledge I have hope at least.

This sounds just like you are playing it to me.

Thanks Kevin - I’m out of my depth when it comes to rhythm notation. Yours sounds right, but so does Richard’s. I have a recollection of Justin mentioning a triplet rhythm, which would lean towards the shuffle thing, but I honestly can’t be 100% sure. I guess the important thing for me is that I can write it such that I can reproduce it, and either seems to work for that!
I am working through Justin’s ‘Reading Rhythm notation’ book, but not arrived at triplets yet:)

I know nothing about music theory lol! Mine’s probably the wrong time signature, although you can supposedly do shuffle in 6/8. Richards does sound good, and it’s probably the correct time signature, but at least you can see there’s more than one way to skin a cat (sonically) in GP :slight_smile:
If you count 123456 123456 with emphasis on 2 and 5, seems to work. I have so much to learn…

Have fun!

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I think this is one of the licks from Justins lesson 5 licks from position one. Ive definitely played this.

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Hmm, I don’t think it is – it goes outside the Am pentatonic. Nice lick, in any case.

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Without having any context such as a backing track, it could be that the lick can be notated in 6/8 time. I opted for 4/4 shuffle time and feel.

When Guitar Pro is given triplet-fee) eigths it divides the triplet mathematically - two-thirds then one-third… It seems to give a quarter followed by an eighth.

My interpretation of the lick by @mathsjunky is that it starts with the final third of a subdivided triplet - let’s call it an eighth. It then shufes between quarters and eighths so to speak. It swings to a shuffle groove.

You are taking the first note as landing on the count of 1. Those first four notes occupy the space of six eighths:
eighth → quarter → eighth → quarter.
Hey presto, that fits a bar of 6/8 as you show. The remainder of the lick is then easily accommodated within a further bar of 6/8 filled out with rests as needed.

Where I hear it differently to you is the last three notes. You have equal duration eighths with no shuffle feel. I hear the shuffle continue giving:
eighth → quarter → eighth → quarter → eighth → quarter → eighth

That could still fit within your second bar of 6/8 by removing the 8th note rest.

I love this analytical exploration but it is not everybody’s cup of tea.
Personally I would go with 4/4 played shuffle syyle.
It would be an interesting exercise to play the lick overr 4/4 and 6/8 backing tracks, which I haven’t done.