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Conventions For Writing Long Rests...


pateceramics
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Are there any conventional style rules for how to divide up a rest for best read-ability?  For instance, if I'm in 6/8 time, and a part has a 1/16 pickup note to a measure, how would you choose to write the rest before the 1/16 note?  A dotted quarter rest, followed by a quarter rest, followed by a sixteenth rest?  (To help them see the relation between their rhythm and the greater pulse of the piece at a glance).  Or a half rest followed by a dotted eighth?  (Because it just keeps the page cleaner.)  A dotted quarter rest, followed by an eighth, followed by a dotted eighth?

 

Does anyone else think about these things, or is it just me?

 

Generally, the trickier the rhythm, the more likely I am to write it in a way that nicely subdivides the beats so that you can't help but count it correctly.  Since we all tend to fall asleep and stop counting on the rests.  Particularly long rests.

 

And I tend to put it in relation to another rhythm in another part on the page.  So if while you are resting, someone else's part goes quarter note, dotted eighth, I'll write your rest as quarter note, dotted eighth so the relationship is clear, and you know you can just listen to them, and then come in.  But if their part goes dotted eighth, quarter, I'll write yours as dotted eighth, quarter.

 

But if it's a situation where the conductor will have a hand free to give you a big fat cue, maybe it's tidier to just write rests in as long of values as possible as opposed to subdividing.  

 

Are there actually conventions for this?  There are for everything else…  But I've never seen this addressed in a style guide.

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I often think about this! Like what if I'm in 5/4 time and the pickup note is just one quarter note? Should the rest before be a whole rest, or should it be two half rests or what? Or if I have a blank measure should I put a whole rest and a quarter rest or should I put a dotted half rest and then a half rest (not dotted)? I never know if there is a generally accepted practice for this. Generally I follow the route that subdivides the beats to ease the counting of rests in music the same way that you described since I'm more concerned with making the notation match the pulse of the music. Unless the music is pretty simple and easy to read, in which case I am likely to consider it more important that it look very neat and aesthetically pleasing.

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Well, in the case you state, KJ, it shouldn't be a whole rest at any rate.  In the modern notation a whole rest means the whole bar of rest, however long the bar is, so in 5/4, a whole rest is five beats, not four. (I know, that one weirds me out too…)  (:  So if you wanted a full measure of rest in 3/4, you could write a whole rest, or a dotted half. A whole rest doesn't have a specific metrical value.  It's just the length of a measure.  

 

Or am I missing something?

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Just don't mess up the beat. Should be as easy to count as you can, largest durations to the left.

 

So in your example if you are counting 6/8 as two beats (1 and uh 2 and uh) it would begin with a dotted quarter rest, and then a quarter rest, and then a sixteenth rest.

 

However if you are counting it as three beats (1 and 2 and 3 and) you would have a half rest followed by a dotted eighth rest.

 

I'm pretty sure this is addressed in at least one of the two style guides I have, but they are both in my library which is not where I am right now so I can't reference it.

 

I thought this was going to be a question about multibar rests.

Edited by U238
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Well, in the case you state, KJ, it shouldn't be a whole rest at any rate.  In the modern notation a whole rest means the whole bar of rest, however long the bar is, so in 5/4, a whole rest is five beats, not four. (I know, that one weirds me out too…)  (:  So if you wanted a full measure of rest in 3/4, you could write a whole rest, or a dotted half. A whole rest doesn't have a specific metrical value.  It's just the length of a measure.  

 

Or am I missing something?

 

No, a whole rest is 4 beats unless it is the only rest in the measure and can be assumed to mean a whole measure.

 

 

I often think about this! Like what if I'm in 5/4 time and the pickup note is just one quarter note? Should the rest before be a whole rest, or should it be two half rests or what? Or if I have a blank measure should I put a whole rest and a quarter rest or should I put a dotted half rest and then a half rest (not dotted)? I never know if there is a generally accepted practice for this. Generally I follow the route that subdivides the beats to ease the counting of rests in music the same way that you described since I'm more concerned with making the notation match the pulse of the music. Unless the music is pretty simple and easy to read, in which case I am likely to consider it more important that it look very neat and aesthetically pleasing.

 

 

So in 5/4 a measure beginning with four rests and then a quarter note should be notated as a whole rest followed by a quarter note. However a measure consisting entirely of rests should be notated as a simple whole note rest. If you think this is confusing you could substitute the whole rest for a multibar rest indicating one measure or something along those lines. Generally I would advise you to take that situtation into context, it is more important that the score is clear and concise. Depending on the layout, rhythmic textures in different voices, etc. might make one way of notating it clearer in one circumstance and less clear in another. Try to use the system that is most consistently suited to the particular piece and be consistent throughout the score.

Edited by U238
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Rests should indicate the beat. In 5/4, the initial four-quarter rest will be notated differently depending on whether that 5/4 subdivides into 2+3 or 3+2; if the former, two half rests; if the latter, a dotted half and a quarter.

 

Similarly one should not use a half rest in 3/4, but write out two quarter rests, unless the 3/4 bars are to be felt "in one" and 3/4 is only an easier way to indicate a hypothetical 1/1.333333.... time signature. (Generally this will be clear from the tempo/metronome mark, which will use a dotted half instead of a quarter, as well as whether the 8th notes are beamed in one group of six rather than three groups of two.)

 

Most modern typesetting practices are based on those of influential 19th century publishers like Breitkopf & Härtel, Simrock and Diabelli; should easily be able to find some out-of-copyright publications from those houses online and examine them to figure out what standard practice for a particular thing would be.

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Rests should indicate the beat. In 5/4, the initial four-quarter rest will be notated differently depending on whether that 5/4 subdivides into 2+3 or 3+2; if the former, two half rests; if the latter, a dotted half and a quarter.

 

Similarly one should not use a half rest in 3/4, but write out two quarter rests, unless the 3/4 bars are to be felt "in one" and 3/4 is only an easier way to indicate a hypothetical 1/1.333333.... time signature. (Generally this will be clear from the tempo/metronome mark, which will use a dotted half instead of a quarter, as well as whether the 8th notes are beamed in one group of six rather than three groups of two.)

 

Most modern typesetting practices are based on those of influential 19th century publishers like Breitkopf & Härtel, Simrock and Diabelli; should easily be able to find some out-of-copyright publications from those houses online and examine them to figure out what standard practice for a particular thing would be.

 

I don't agree. It is definitely okay to group beats together when possible, the main concern should be to not break the beats up. I.E. in common time a measure that begins with two beats of a rest would be kosher to notate with a half rest, but not with a dotted quarter rest and an eighth rest. Or, in 6/8 you would use a dotted quarter rest followed by an eighth rest instead of the half rest.

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You may not agree. But in my experience it's extremely rare to see, e.g., a measure of common time starting with a dotted half rest in a published score, & when such things appear in a manuscript it's usually due to the inexperience of the composer. (with odd exceptions like Stravinsky, whose scores are full of idiosyncrasies anyway) Pretty much every editor will rewrite that rest as a half and a quarter so as to avoid covering the middle of the bar. Probably unnecessary, but it's a convention.

 

(I have a manual of style somewhere around, I think it agrees with me... if I can find it i'll scan the relevant page)

 

I agree with you about not breaking the beats up either though.

Edited by Shadowwolf3689
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Specifically, I've got a piece in 6/8 which I would mainly conduct in a slow two, if it were me.  (The dotted quarter gets the main beat.  It waltzes along, rather quickly 1,2,3; 2,2,3.)  The piece has lots of 1/16 note pick-ups, and I'm wondering about the clearest way to notate them.  Dotted quarter followed by… eighth, eighth, sixteenth?  Or eighth, dotted eighth?  

 

U238 votes for dotted quarter, quarter, sixteenth.  

Any other votes?

 

Whatever I do seems untidy, but that's probably because I've been staring at it too long.  But I just want to be good little composer and do what's right!...

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Somebody on a different forum just recommended "Behind Bars" by Elaine Gould as having a good section on this topic and as a good reference in general.  Just ordered myself a copy.  Pricey for my budget, but totally sounds worth it from the reviews and author interviews I found.  (:  She works for Faber and spent a lot of time talking to musicians about things that annoyed them in scores and wrote a style guide taking that advice into account.  

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Okay, so I asked on another forum as well, and one of the moderators there was kind enough to provide the following summary from his favorite notation-wonk book:  (Thank you Mr. Giffen!)

 

Rests must be notated to indicate clearly the divisions of the bar.

1. Rests of one or more beats may only occur (start) on a beat.

2. Rests in duple or quadruple meters (not just simple meters 4/8, 2/4, 4/4, 2/2, but also compound meters 6/16. 6/8, 6/4, 12/8) must divide to expose the middle of the bar.

In 4/4: |n4 r4 r4 n4|, |n4 r4 r2| or |r2 r4 n4| but not |n4 r2 n4|, |n4 r2.| or |r2. n4|.
In 6/8: |r4. r4 n8| (|r4. r8 r8 n8| is okay, too), |n4 r8 r8 n4| or |n8 r8 r8 r4.|.

3. Rests in triple meter must expose all beats (two beat rests can only occur in duple or quadruple meters).

In 3/4: |r4 r4 n4| or |n4 r4 r4| but not |r2 n4| or |n4 r2|.
In 9/8: |r4. r4. n4.| or |n4. r4. r4.| but not |r2. n4.| or |n4. r2.|.

4. Dotted or combined rests within a beat, are encouraged (formerly not) to increase legibility.

In 2/4: |r8. n16 r8. n16|.
In 9/8: |r4. r4. r4 n8| or |n8 r8 r8 r4. r4.|.

SIMPLE METERS

5. In simple (eg. duple or quadruple 2/4, 2/2/, 4/4) meters, dotted rests are recommended for the beginning of a beat but not at the end of a beat (although they are acceptable at the end).

In 2/2: |r4. n8 n8 r8 r4| encouraged, |r4. n8 n8 r4.| acceptable.

6. The longest allowable dotted rest in simple meters is one level smaller than the beat.

In 4/4: |r2 r4 r8 n8| or |r8. n16 r4 r2| or |r2 r8. n16 r4|.

7. Dotted half (or whole) rests in simple meters are deprecated.

8. Within a beat, double-dotted rests may replace two or more rests, but clarity should take precedence.

In 2/2: |r4.. n16 n16 r4..| is acceptable, but |r4.. n16 n16 r8. r4| (or |r4.. n16 n16 r16 r8 r4|) are probably clearer.

9. In the middle of a beat, rests should exposel the middle of the beat, although this isn't necessary when the rhythm is clear.

In 2/2: |r2 n16 r16 r8 r8. n16| or |r2 n16 r8. r8. n16| but not |r2 n16 r4. n16|.
In 2/2: |n8 r4 n8 n8 r4 n8| is acceptable (clear rhythm).

COMPOUND METERS

10. Dotted rests as whole beats are standard. Combining whole beats must not obscure the important divisions within a bar (eg. middle bar in 6/8, 6/4, 12/8).

In 12/8: |r2. r4. n4.| or |n4. r4. n2.|.

11. Within a beat, rests at the beginning of a beat may be combined.

In 6/4: |r2 n4 r2 n4|.

12. When rests occur for more than the first two subdivisions of a beat (but not the entire beat), combine to expose the second subdivision of the beat.

In 6/4: |r4 r4. n8 r2.| but not | r2 r8 n8 r2.|.

13. For rests that follow a beat, all three subdivisions of the beat should be exposed.

In 6/4: |n4 r4 r4 n8 r8 r4 r4|.

14. When rhythmic feel must be communicated for rests at the beginning of a beat, rests should show these (don't combine).

In 6/4: |r4 r4 n4 r4 r4 n4| or |r4 r4 r8 n8 r4 r4 r8 n8|.

15. However, it is better normally, and in long bars especially, to combine rests to make position of beats clear.

In 9/8: |n8 r8 r8 r4 n8 r4 n8| instead of |n8 r8 r8 r8 r8 n8 r8 r8 n8|.

16. In the middle of a beat, expose at least two or the three subdivisions of the beat.

In 6/4: |n8 r8 r4. n8 r2.| or |n8 r8 r4 r8 n8 r2.| but not |n8 r2 n8 n2.|.

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