Dotted quarter as bass, 16th notes in higher voice

• May 3, 2015 - 18:11


I'm writing this for a guitar part. F dotted quarter is in voice 1, 16th notes in voice 2.

I don't like how it looks, I just don't want the F dotted quarter AND the F 16th, I only want the dotted quarter.

Just like this:


but with a dotted quarter. Is this behavior a bug or an intentional feature?


It's not a bug. In most contexts it is very important to show the independent voices and allow their rhythms to be determined unambiguously. Only if two notes share the same notehead type and same number of dots is it normally considered proper to let them share a notehead.

However, classical guitar music is an exception - in that specific context, it is often considered better to share the noteheads even when the noteheads or number of dots differ. Maybe because this technique is needed so often, maybe also because the notion of the "duration" of a note is less significant for guitar where realistically, most notes are simply allowed to ring. Anyhow, specifically to handle the case of classical guitar (or anyone else who feels like taking advantage of this), we provide multiple ways of doing this - either mark one note invisible, or explicitly change one notehead's type to match the other.

Doing it by adjusting the position is not good - it will be difficult to get them match, and no guarantee it will continue to match exactly as the layout changes. The two ways I mention above are both designed to work. Of the two, I recommend the notehead type trick. In this case, clcik the dotted note, set notehead type to quarter in the inspector.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

"The two ways I mention above are both designed to work. Of the two, I recommend the notehead type trick." Absolutely agree with that.

"However, classical guitar music is an exception. " Not agree with that! :)
See end of the page 307 of "Behind Bars", in "Sharing noteheads in unison". Elaine Gould mention keyboard and harp : "it's an accepted convention... etc."

She omits guitar... and yet, guitar notation is reduced in a single staff (yes, a single staff!), very often in a multi-voices context (three is common, sometimes four) and so, it requires to save space the more possible. It's a convention shared in all the guitar repertoire (in standard notation, of course)

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thank you, that is the best solution indeed.

Anyway I don't really get why (in this case) should I need to show independent voices, also in other instruments.
If a note sounds for a dotted quarter I WRITE a dotted quarter, no matter if it's the first of a series of 16th.

Piano example:

Schermata da 2015-05-03 21:48:01.png

Of course it could be done to emphasize two different voices that - even if they cannot be played with the instruments - give to the player the information to play it with the right intention (I can't get an example but I'm referring to Bach's transcriptions for other instruments or reductions from orchestra).

In reply to by Fabrizio Ferrigno

The most important situation where it is important to see the independent voices is when the lines are actually played by different musicians even though they share a staff - like when soprano and alto parts share a staff, or a violin "divisi" in an orchestral setting. But also when a single instrument is playing contrapuntal music, as with much Bach indeed, it can be important to clearly show the independent voices.

It's also potentially significant significant for ease of sightreading. I would suggest even in your posted example above (Clair de Lune, right?), the rhythm really isn't totally clear. I see two notes sharing a head and I see a dot, but it isn't *immediately* clear which of the two notes is actually dotted. It would be especially problematic if sixteenth were actually an eighth. A person reading it would see what appeared to be a dotted eighth followed by a sixteenth and would thus play that passage wrong, only realizing their mistake when they reached the next beat and found there were too many notes. And chances are they wouldn't even figure out what went wrong until it happened several times. It's details like this that often make the difference between success and failure when sightreading.

Anyhow, that's why the rule exists, but indeed, there are situations where those concerns don't really matter, and in those cases it is indeed conventional to share the noteheads, which is why MuseScore does support this.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Yes Clair de Lune, nice catch! ;) I'm not that expert in other instrument so I can't really talk for those. Of course I agree with you that there are cases in which is necessary to divide "clearly" the rhythm so that you can immediately understand it, but in this specific case I don't really "get the ambiguity".

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