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There are two ties in the bass part of the following excerpt. Both of them include some other different notes. According to the tie's definition, 16th note + 8th note = 3/16th note. In the case of the first tie, should I play a 3/16th note at the beginning of the second measure, or shall I play a whole 3/8th note? enter image description here

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I wouldn't do this myself. It's more accurate to write out the entire note value, in this case a quarter note. In fact, since this is 6/8 time, I would just use a dotted quarter note here and get rid of the tie altogether. In both cases. – BobRodes Mar 29 '14 at 23:55
By the way, which instrument is this written for? A guitar cannot play the low D in the first bar, true? – George Mar 30 '14 at 7:57
@George It's for guitar using Drop D tuning. – wang zhihao Mar 30 '14 at 8:04
AH. I see. Thanks – George Mar 30 '14 at 9:27
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The way this is written is just incorrect. You can guess what it means: you have to hold the base note while you play the other notes. But I insist: the way it's written is just wrong; it is not an acceptable notation. In these cases you just write the base note with its correct duration as a different voice.

[EDIT] A correct way of writing this: Written musical excerp

[EDIT] Another way, for guitar, etc.: Written musical excerp

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Maybe the author used the software which only support two voices in a staff. Is it possible to represent it in just two voices? It would be much more helpful if you draw the correct way in a staff. – wang zhihao Mar 30 '14 at 2:11
I added a correct way of writing this. I'm afraid there is no proper way to write it in two voices, because there are three. – George Mar 30 '14 at 2:28
Alternatively, George, since the original excerpt appears to have been written for guitar, it should remain on one staff (therefore the ledger lines are acceptable.) A proper way to write it in two voices would be to merely show a short tie coming off the bass voice of the grouping - this would complement the written directions of "let basses ring" from the original example. – jjmusicnotes Mar 30 '14 at 5:39
I didn't think of the guitar. I edit the post by adding another example in one staff, that would be also correct. – George Mar 30 '14 at 7:43
While I agree that your suggested notations are often better, these are known as "Ravel ties" -- I've edited my answer with some examples. – NReilingh Mar 30 '14 at 18:50

This is something that I generally wouldn't write myself when typesetting or editing a piece of music, but is nonetheless an acceptable notation for piano music involving arpeggios.

You interpret it simply by ignoring the notated value of the first note except to figure out where the next note in the arpeggio should be. Just hold the note through the duration of the tie, playing the arpeggiated chord above it as written.


There seems to be some disagreement over the acceptability of this notation. Like I said, personally I would opt instead for something like what Beethoven does on the second-to-last page of the Moonlight Sonata), but in spite of the voice-rhythm inconsistency, the notion of tying an arpeggio to a chord is an accepted practice for chording instruments like piano, guitar, and harp.

They are known as Ravel ties, and you will see questions about them crop up often in community forums for notation programs like Sibelius and Finale, since they are generally not played back properly (in current versions of the software) without some extra tweaking. Lilypond, however, even goes so far as to include the example in their documentation, and I'm certainly not going to argue with the wonderful engraving nerds that run that project!

Some real-world examples can be found all over Ravel's own Gaspard de la Nuit, alongside similar usage for grace-notes (possibly a more "readily accepted" usage), in the first and third movements in particular:

First movement, bar 31 First movement, last measure Third movement third movement, last measure

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It also has the comment "Let basses ring" to indicate this. – Meaningful Username Mar 29 '14 at 11:09
Agreed; I might have written a dotted eighth, with the moving line notated as sixteenth rest followed by the sixteenth and quarter. There's really two moving lines plus a "pedal tone" in that measure. – Carl Witthoft Mar 29 '14 at 11:32
Dotted quarter, not eighth, no? – BobRodes Mar 29 '14 at 23:58
@NReilingh - I respectfully disagree that this is acceptable notation - for piano or any instrument otherwise. The durations of tied tones must correlate with the rhythms occurring during the tie. The exception here is of course if there are two or more parts being portrayed in the same staff (such as trumpet I, trumpet II) and therefore have different music. That said, if the parts are too different rhythmically, they must be notated on individual staves. In the case of the provided example, it should be notated as a 16th tied to a 16th tied to a 1/4 tied to 1/8 for maximum clarity. – jjmusicnotes Mar 30 '14 at 5:36
@jjmusicnotes I would have said the exact same thing a year ago, but I ended up proving myself wrong with some extra research. I've elaborated on my answer with more information about this notation. – NReilingh Mar 30 '14 at 18:48

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