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This is a very basic question about music notation, but I don't know the answer! There's a wealth of knowledge here on PianoWorld. I hope someone will help.

My question is:


In 3/4 time:

1) Are two dotted quarter notes in a bar acceptable?

Dotted 1/4 + Dotted 1/4


Or should I be notating:

2) A dotted quarter note followed by an eighth note that is tied to the following quarter note?

Dotted 1/4 + 1/8 tied to + 1/4


It seems to me notating two dotted quarter notes may violate the rules about where in 3/4 time rhythmic notes are supposed to break.

But notating the other way, with a tied 1/8th note instead, doesn't seem preferable either as adds to visual clutter; doesn't seem as easy to read.

Is there a "correct", "wrong" or "preferable" way to notate this rhythm?

Jeanne W


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I’d go with your second option. It marks better where the beats are


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Jeanne, whatever time signature you are using, it is important to see where the beats are, not only to make it "theoretically" correct but also to make it clear to performers just where the beats are and what your musical intentions are.

So in a 3/4 time, 3 beats in the bar is what it's all about, and so on.

I feel that neither of your solutions are satisfactory. I would say that a 1/4 tied to 1/8 followed by 1/8 tied to 1/4 , with the two middle 1/8 notes grouped together. This would clearly show where the 3 beats come.

However, this is also a very cumbersome solution and yes, cluttered with all the tied notes.

So, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is highly likely that it is a duck!! Square pegs into a round hole also spring to mind. No need to thank me.

Your two dotted 1/4 notes look like a 6/8 bar. See the previous sentence. Not wishing to sound too flippant, that's why we have 6/8 bars, so we can clearly and successfully have 2 dotted 1/4 notes in a bar.

Have a think about whether having a bar with 2 dotted 1/4 notes, will it drastically change your music by slipping in a 6/8 with its 2 beats to the bar, and just how important it is to keep the 3/4 with its 3 beats to the bar.

The 2 dotted 1/4 notes might be pointing to a 2 feel. Nothing wrong with that.

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mydp, Charles.

Thank you for the info. I've been thinking about what you said.

Charles: the notation you discussed was one I hadn't even thought of. It obeys the rules, conforms to and identifies the correct break points and pulse that occur in 3/4 time.

mydp: you suggested going with one of my ideas, dotted quarter notes, which violates the rules of 3/4 time but has the advantage of less visual clutter.

The two differing options had me wanting to know more and so, after mulling over the responses here, I did a bit more digging around for info.

I searched one of my collections of classical sheet music for examples of syncopation. (I believe syncopation is what we're discussing here. If not, I hope someone will let me know). I did not find an exact match in 3/4 time of the rhythm I'm asking how to notate. I did however find examples of similar syncopated rhythms in both 3/4 and 4/4 time.

I discovered that syncopated rhythms in published sheet music are not notated in a consistent manner. Some instances obey rhythmic notation rules; others do not. And then there's this: a 3/4 time signature with bars consisting of: 1) a dotted 1/4 note followed by three 1/8th notes all three beamed together and 2) six 1/8th notes beamed all together. Zoweeee! Those last examples seem really wrong. Which left me wanting to learn more about this.

This morning I came across a website that explains that syncopation can occur (as in my composition) at the division of the beat level" and provides three examples of how syncopation can be notated:

Syncopated Notation In 4/4 Time:

**Examples 1 and 2:
Do not obey the rules. The notation does not adhere to the beat or "pulse" of the time signature.

**Example 3:
Does obey the rules.

Per the website: the notation in examples 1 and 2 (the ones that do not obey rhythmic time rules) is "acceptable because they are common and to write them out correctly involves more symbols (beamed eights and ties) for the performer to comprehend."

To wrap this up:

*I thought there would be a "right" and "wrong" way to notate syncopated notes. I was wrong. It appears there is more than one acceptable way, and how you choose to do it is a moot point as the music will be played and sound the same.

* I'm having a difficult time deciding which way to notate the syncopated rhythm in my work. Both have advantages and disadvantages. I like both ways. How to choose!?

* I know a lot more now than I did before asking my question. Posting here has been very helpful. Thank you, Charles and mydp.

I'd also like to thank you, Charles, for discussing 3/4 versus 6/8 time. Most all of the rhythmic values in the composition in question conform to rhythmic values of 3/4 time; only a few bars contain syncopated rhythms. I therefore believe 3/4 time is the appropriate time signature for this particular piece of music, but your comments make me want to learn more about 6/8 time. I have something I haven't thought much about to look into. 😊

Jeanne W


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Interesting points you have raised Jeanne.

Could you post a few links to places you are looking at? And perhaps give some of the details of the music you are referring to so I can have a look.

I didn't realise that syncopation is something you were concerned with. One of the sites I looked at quickly defined syncopation in terms of strong and weak accents on beats. This is incorrect and confuses what is called "displaced accent" with syncopation. That famous bit in our friend Stravinsk's "Rite" is displaced accent.

Syncopation is more correctly "a cutting of the meter." So in 4/4, a bar of 1/8 1/4 1/4 1/4 1/8 is syncopation. It's not about putting strong or weak accents on unexpected beats. Any Rag Time piece will give you an idea of what syncopation is.

Charles

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Hi,
Talking about notation without actually seeing it is a bit frustrating. Therefore, I am trying to load an image (not sure if it will work).
In this image the first example is my favored solution ("mydp"). It is, if I got it right, the second one of those proposed by Jeanne. Next comes the solution by Charles ("Charles"), if I understood it properly. Finally, the first of Jeanne's options, which I find a bit "weird".

[Linked Image]

Watching this image I cannot help but think that the first is the best one.

Last edited by mydp; 02/09/22 12:07 PM.

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Sorry, probably the solution proposed by Charles was rather this one:

[Linked Image]

which is very similar to the first one.
Yet, I like better the first one.

Juan


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[Linked Image]

This is what I thought Jeanne meant.

The 1st bar is what Jeanne wanted to write, I think, and the 2nd bar is my solution.

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Oh, god, you are right!
Not being used to this way of naming the notes, I took 1/4 for 1/8!
Now it all makes more sense, and I agree completely with you. Sorry for the confusion!


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Originally Posted by mydp
Oh, god, you are right!
Not being used to this way of naming the notes, I took 1/4 for 1/8!
Now it all makes more sense, and I agree completely with you. Sorry for the confusion!

That's ok. In Australia, we call them quavers and crotchets, and just in case we learn about 1/8 notes and 1/4 notes as well!

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I know… Negras and corcheas here…
But I am relatively used to read ‘quarter notes’ and ‘eighth notes’
In numerical form I guess I just didn’t read it carefully enough


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Originally Posted by CharlesXX
[Linked Image]

This is what I thought Jeanne meant.

The 1st bar is what Jeanne wanted to write, I think, and the 2nd bar is my solution.

I’m not a composer; just a pianist. I find Charles’ suggestion very clear with no room for error of when the second note should bd played. Option 1 is certainly mathematically correct, but it requires more thought to play correctly


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Since we are in the mood of posting score snippets, we could also do this:

[Linked Image]

which might be easier to write if you are writing by hand


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Originally Posted by mydp
Since we are in the mood of posting score snippets, we could also do this:

[Linked Image]

which might be easier to write if you are writing by hand

I would read this as ‘two notes played in the space of two’. Should you put a three over the top instead?
Two quarters played in the space of theee quarters? I D ont find it to be as clear as Charles’ example of when the second note starts


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This is getting more and more interesting. Thanks, dogperson, for joining the conversation. You've offered a very novel solution. And, thank you, Charles. As you pointed out, one of my suggested options for the notation in my composition would be two dotted quarter notes.

Charles, regarding web links for notation of classical sheet music that I believe violates rhythmic rules for 3/4 time…

The notation I'm referring to is from one of my books, a compendium of classical piano music. I skimmed through it page by page noting the name of the piece of music, the composer, and the number of the bar the notation in question resides in.

I thought that information would enable me to easily retrieve matching sheet music on the internet which would in turn enable me to provide web links in my response here. Wrong-O.

My first attempt went nowhere. I kept searching without success, got frustrated and stopped; therefore will not be providing web links. I will, however, provide a list identifying the music. I'm not sure this will be much help, though, only to those with these particular pieces of sheet music.

From "The Library of Piano Classics 2"
Published by Amsco Publications, New York

Examples of notation I believe violates rhythmic rules.

All are in 3/4 time.

1) Sarabande - Bach
Bar #5
(6) 1/8ths all beamed together

2) Sarabande - Bach
Bar 14 (this example only is in the bass clef)
1/4 + 1/8th rest + (3) 1/8ths all 3 beamed together

3) Two Part Invention - Bach
Bar #1
1/8th rest + (5) 1/8ths all 5 beamed together

4) Waltz in Bb Major (Op. 39 No. 8) - Brahms
Bar 2
Dotted 1/4 + 1/8th + 1/4

5) Mazurka in C Major (Op. 67. No. 3) - Chopin
Dotted 1/4 + (3) 1/8ths all 3 beamed together

I will post a little later with info about the resources I've consulted about "syncopation" and "displaced accents" but before I go, AHA! I just found this when I took a short break as I was finishing up this post:

"In 3/4 time, because there is an odd number of beats per measure, the "center" of 3/4 time is in the middle of beat two. However, as both beats 2 + 3 are weak, there is no need to separate them. Though most choose to group 1/8th notes by beat in 3/4 time, both of the following groupings are correct:"

1. More Common:
(3) pairs of 1/8th notes

2. Less Common:
Six 1/8th notes all beamed together


Jeanne W

Last edited by Jeanne W; 02/10/22 12:37 PM.

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Some comments in addition to what I just posted above:

Originally Posted by CharlesXX

Quote
This is what I thought Jeanne meant. (Two dotted 1/4 notes)

The 1st bar is what Jeanne wanted to write...

Reply from dogperson:

Quote
I’m not a composer; just a pianist. I find Charles’ suggestion very clear with no room for error of when the second note should bd played. Option 1 is certainly mathematically correct, but it requires more thought to play correctly

dogperson, I think what is "easier" may depend on the pianist who is playing the piece.

Some pianists may focus more on the rhythmic groupings of the notes, but for others less visual clutter may be a larger factor. My idea is some pianists may find the option in bar 1 easier to comprehend, while others the option in bar 2. Choosing which one seems a bit of a toss up to me. I see value in both options.

Remember also, the treble clef in the example above is not a "real life" portrayal of how the music notation will appear in its entirety. It shows only a treble clef, the bass clef that always accompanies the treble clef is not shown.

A pianist, when viewing the dotted 1/4 notes in the treble clef, has the advantage of seeing also the accompanying notes in the bass clef. Viewing them together will assist in deciphering the rhythm. That is I guess as long as the rhythm of the notes in the bass clef is not very complicated.

Of course those of us notating the music are never going to know which option pianists are going to prefer.

Jeanne W

Last edited by Jeanne W; 02/10/22 01:13 PM.

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Originally Posted by dogperson
I would read this as ‘two notes played in the space of two’. Should you put a three over the top instead?
Two quarters played in the space of theee quarters? I D ont find it to be as clear as Charles’ example of when the second note starts

I think in english is called ‘duplet’. It is a tuplet that allows us to play two notes in the place of three (the opposite of a triplet)


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Originally Posted by Jeanne W
1. More Common:
(3) pairs of 1/8th notes

2. Less Common:
Six 1/8th notes all beamed together[/i]

Jeanne W

Hi Jeanne.
You can easily find examples of both.
Not to look further, of the two notation programs I normally use, one of them writes pairs of eight notes, while the other beams together the six notes


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Just a quick note to correct something I said in my earlier post.

I thanked dogperson for offering the alternative notation that involves a duplet when in fact, it was mydp.

My mistake. Sorry about that.

Thanks everyone for participating in this discussion.

To be continued...

Jeanne W


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Jeanne, let's look at the examples you've mentioned.

It's not uncommon to see the six 1/8 notes in a 3/4 bar beamed together. The first 4 or the last 4 1/8 notes can also be grouped. In addition, it's not uncommon to see a 1/8 note rest followed by five grouped 1/8 notes. The Bach Two-part Invention #8 in F (I think you are referring to this one) demonstrates this clearly. Notice how the 1/16 notes are grouped. All nice and clear in groups of 4.

The Chopin Mazurka you mention is very interesting. It's as if Chopin wants a 2 feel in the rh of bar one, and a 3 feel in bar 2. Notice the slur over the three 1/8 notes in bar 1, 13 and 17. So he is alternating between a 2 feel and a 3 feel in subsequent bars. If you listen to a good performance of this piece, it can clearly be heard. Think 6/8 followed by 3/4.

Chopin is adapting his notation to clearly show how the music should be played. This is what composers do. Sure, as a 3/4 bar the 1/8 note grouping is wrong. But Chopin is trying to show that he does not want this bar played as a 3/4 bar in the rh, but like a 6/8. What else to do?

Bach does something similar in 2-Part Invention #4. Most of the piece is a steady 3 beats per bar, but in bars 11 and 13 he suddenly throws in a 2 feel, going by the way the semiquavers are written and played. Just to make things interesting musically in case the 3 feel becomes too predictable. There are other bars that could be interpreted in a similar way.

I can't see any problem with the Brahms. Just a standard dotted rhythm.

So, Bach and Chopin don't break the rules - they make the rules!! (I just made that up. Thought I was being quite the comedian.)

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