I have a question about reading sheet music for pieces in 3/4 time signature. Attached is a bar in the bass clef from Waltz No. 2, Shostakovitch which has one dotted half note (D) and two quarter notes (F-A, F-A). 3/4 time signature means each bar has three quarter notes. If a half note is worth two quarter notes, then how can you ever have one half note and a quarter note in the same bar in 3/4 time? In this case it's a dotted half note, meaning it gets three quarter notes worth of time. Does this mean that the note D should be held down for the whole duration of the bar? If that's the intent, why isn't it notated with a tie to the next bar? If not, can someone please explain how half notes and quarter notes work in 3/4? thanks.

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  • 1
    There must be many dupes to this question!
    – Tim
    May 31, 2020 at 5:50
  • and the position of the notes looks quite obvious, anyway. It looks like an arithmetical problem of addition. May 31, 2020 at 8:12

1 Answer 1


In the highlighted measure, there are 2 (actually 3) voices. The dotted half is held for three beats started on beat #1. The other voice (or two depending on how one wants to name things) has a quarter rest on beat #1 and a quarter note third (F & D) on beats #2 and #3. This is a typical waltz pattern.

Measures 1-4 have the same pattern in the right hand (treble). There is a quarter rest then two quarter notes (adding up to three counts.) The last two measures have the same pattern in the bass but the bass line is there too. The accompaniment is compressed to the bass clef. Normally, the left hand plays all the notes but the dotted half is often sustained with the damper pedal.

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