From jugglingpatterns

Siteswap is a mathematical model to calculate possible juggling patterns and also notation to write down juggling patterns as a series of numbers.

Central Description

Siteswap assumes that each throw happens on a beat. Each number represents a throw.

  • Each number in siteswap is the number of beats between this throw and when the object is thrown again

e.g. a "4" means the object thrown in this beat will be thrown again 4 beats later. --> Throws in a 3-ball cascade are a "3", throws in a 4-ball fountain are a "4" and so on.

Throw Heights

The siteswap numbers roughly represent the time between throws and hence higher numbers mean higher throws.

The distance that an accelerated object travels is quadratic with time, and the same is true here. A throw with siteswap "5" would be about 25 times as high as one with siteswap "1".

In general, you can roughly imagine the heights of a siteswap "n" as that of the n-object cascade/fountain. With the addition, that mixing high throws and low throws does tend to make the high throws higher and the low throws lower compared to patterns with just one type of throw.

  • A throw of siteswap N is similar to the throw of the N-object cascade/fountain

Can you tell, what kind of throws siteswap 2, 1 and 0 are?

Overview of Types

  • two handed siteswaps
    • vanilla siteswap - each hand throws on a separate beat (=asynchronous)
    • synchronous siteswap two hand siteswaps - both hands throw on the same beat
  • 4-handed passing siteswaps
    • asynchronous siteswaps - each hand throws on a separate beat
    • partially synchronous siteswaps
      • both right hands throw at the same time
      • right hand of A and left hand of B throw at the same time
      • both hands of A and both hands of B throw at the same time
    • fully synchronous siteswaps - all hands throw at the same time
  • more than 4 hands
    • even more combinations of hands throwing asynchronous or in sync than for 4 hands, but same system of forming possible combinations as above

2-Handed Vanilla Siteswap

Siteswap that describes "normal" juggling patterns of the type of the 3 ball cascade or 4 ball fountain are called vanilla siteswap.

Because we only describe these patterns, vanilla siteswap has some some additional rules:

  • only one object can land on any beat (= no multiplexes)
  • each hand throws on a separate beat (= only one object is thrown on each beat = no synchronous patterns)

There are extensions to the notation that allow siteswap to handle multiplex and synchronous patterns.

Example: 3-object cascade

This is the normal 3 ball cascade with two hands. Each arrow points to the next throwing event with the same object 3 beats later.

Numbers and arrows are colored with the color of the object involved:

  • ball A: red
  • ball B: blue
  • ball C: black

Height of the curved arrows is also chosen differently for each object to make it easier to follow the path of one object - this is not meant to indicate a difference between throws, just to make reading the diagram easier.


Right and left hand are written underneath the numbers as R and L . As expected, all throws cross to the other hand.

The last three dashes represent throws that have not been made yet.

Notation: The throw sequence is 3333333333. One shortens a pattern to the shortest non-repeating part of the sequence, so siteswap for the 3-ball cascade is written as "3".

Why is it Called Siteswap

The name comes from a property of the notation. You can choose two throwing events - two "sites" - and then you can "swap" them. If you first throw object A, then object B, swapping means that A lands on the beat of B and B lands on the beat of A.

So if you have a 3-ball cascade:

3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 

You can e.g. swap the landing times of the 3rd and 4th throw. The first throw then arrives one beat later and becomes a "4" and the second throw arrives one beat earlier and becomes a "2". So you get:

3 3 4 2 3 3 3 3 3 3

With the arrows drawn in:


Now all possible juggling patterns can be generated by swapping all the possible sites.

Beyond 2-Hand Vanilla Siteswap

One Juggler

Two (or more) Jugglers

Two hands can only either throw at the same time (synchronous patterns) or at different times (asynchronous patterns).

With 4 hands you get more possibilities:

  • fully asynchronous (every hand throws on a separate beat, no other throw happens at the same time)
  • half-synchronous: two hands throw at the same time
    • R (right hand) of juggler A and R of juggler B throw at the same time and L and L of A and B throw at the same time (e.g. 4-count)
    • R and L of A throw at the same time, then R and L of B (e.g. 6-club 1-count with both clubs thrown at the same time)
  • fully synchronous: all 4 hands throw at the same time