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Hello, everyone! I look forward to joining in on some musical discussions as most of my peers aren't all that into sitting for hours deciding between a "dotted eighth and a sixteenth" and a "quarter note, eighth note" triplet.

My question is what would be the best way to notate this measure? The first version is how I had it because that's how I envisioned the notes coming in. I was given advice to change it to multiple lines/voices, which made the overall score look much better, but this one measure seems off to me. Is it okay to have the rests floating way up in the middle of nowhere like that? Is it better to have them lined up evenly, or should they be as low as possible above the notes they hover over?

Thanks for your help!

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Hi Matt,

Is this for piano? Because if it is, you could try notating the measure as all quarter notes and just sustaining with the pedal to the third or fourth beat (assuming you are satisfied with the sound). In general, I think the second version is hard to read, the first, while a bit unusual, is not.

Best - 

Gav

Yes, this is for piano. I just added the whole score to my post as well. There are several other places where I think adding two voices did make it more clear; in many cases I did use the pedal to connect everything, which worked great. The posted measure (number 24 in the piece) just seemed odd, which you confirmed for me. I think you're right though: they're all chord tones so it probable makes sense to just sustain them all.

In a more general sense, what does one do with rests when using multiple voices? To they stay even with each other, or should they stay as close to the middle of the staff as they can get?

Thanks!

Indeed, it looks much better. Thanks for the advice!

I try to keep the rests vertically close to the line they are related to, even if it means moving things out of the way horizontally. If the default positioning created by the notation program is not too far off that, I tend to leave it alone. The positioning you have here seems ok to me (e.g., m 9), though I wonder if it would sound any worse if notated as all quarters, as you did in other places (e.g., m 37)

Matt Baker said:

In a more general sense, what does one do with rests when using multiple voices? To they stay even with each other, or should they stay as close to the middle of the staff as they can get?

Thanks!

I believe the most authoritative work in English on musical notation is generally considered to be Behind Bars by Elaine Gould (Faber Music 2011.)  She goes into rests on piano scores in some detail (pp. 310ff).  The discussion is too complex for me to summarize here (and I don't really have the knowledge to do it accurately,) but some of her examples do show rests floating above the staff.

This book is somewhat expensive, but in my opinion every composer should have their own copy if they can possibly afford it.

Technically I think the first is correct, but Gav is right, the third looks better. I just don't know enough about piano notation. Either will convey the intent. I agree, you need a good manual. but like everything else, there is not 100% agreement on how to notate correctly. There are so many special cases for different instruments. In general, if it is easy to read and conveys how it should be played, you are on safe ground. The rest is a matter of how far you want to go in terms of getting it absolutely perfect.

Thanks, Jon! I will look into that book, though the price might dictate how long it is before I own it. I'm mostly writing for fun and maybe to have my elementary students (or the local middle school) play stuff, so I'm not overly concerned with technical accuracy, but I would like to get in the ballpark of best practices, hence my questions. "If it is easy to read and conveys how it should be played, you are on safe ground." Just what I hoped to hear! :)

Matt


Jon Corelis said:

I believe the most authoritative work in English on musical notation is generally considered to be Behind Bars by Elaine Gould (Faber Music 2011.)  She goes into rests on piano scores in some detail (pp. 310ff).  The discussion is too complex for me to summarize here (and I don't really have the knowledge to do it accurately,) but some of her examples do show rests floating above the staff.

This book is somewhat expensive, but in my opinion every composer should have their own copy if they can possibly afford it.

Thanks, Michael. I just realized I accidentally quoted you in my response to Jon, but I'll reiterate here that I appreciate your insights!


Matt

michael diemer said:

Technically I think the first is correct, but Gav is right, the third looks better. I just don't know enough about piano notation. Either will convey the intent. I agree, you need a good manual. but like everything else, there is not 100% agreement on how to notate correctly. There are so many special cases for different instruments. In general, if it is easy to read and conveys how it should be played, you are on safe ground. The rest is a matter of how far you want to go in terms of getting it absolutely perfect.

Back in the 70s or 80s, when living in Pittsburgh, I went to Carnegie Library and found an old manual on notation, and photocopied the whole thing. Then I went home and cut all the pages in half, punched holes in them and put them in a three-ring binder. That's my notation book. I don't even know what it's called. It had a section on how to use onion-skin paper. I never went that far, but I used to write out entire pieces backwards, so the ink wouldn't smear (I'm left-handed). Yes, we've come a long way since then.

That book name keeps coming around, I see it mentioned in multiple forums. I think I shall buy it ($40 on Amazon) - 

The book's (Behind Bars) preface is an extremely enthusiastic and glowing endorsement of it by Sir Simon Rattle, which is a pretty good recommendation.

The third version is more to the point than the others. I really depends on what instrument you  are writing for. The first version is not for piano. The second might be a piano reduction, besides being hard to read.

Know your target instrument. I'm not sure there is any such thing as perfect notation. The player is the final arbiter. 

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