I am confused about a solution to a question in my music theory exercise book. The answer is shown in an image below (the one in 10/16 time). From what I understand, the rests should fit into the beats of Strong-Weak-Medium-Weak.

Doesn't it make more sense to have the dotted eighth rest on the medium beat instead of the final weak beat? That way the sixteenths are grouped like 3-2-3-2. Is my thinking wrong here? I am new to this so I could be mistaken or just unaware. Perhaps both 3-2-3-2 and 3-2-2-3 are valid but one is preferable? Could someone shed some light on my confusion here? Thank you in advance.

image of music theory exercise answer

Edit: It is probably too late now, but here is the question from the book. Next time, I'll be sure to include the question too.


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    First, your strong-weak-medium-weak axiom doesn’t hold up in general. 2nd, in 10/16 there are 10 different beats, so it really doesn’t hold up. You did not mention the original question so any answers are speculation: The only valid part of the book answer is that you can’t subdivide rests, which is why they’re written the way they are. The way the book is written the metric subdivision is 3+2+2+3. The metric grouping needs to reflect the impulses of the music. In the absence of context, a 10/16 measure, or any measure, can be subdivided a number of ways. Only providing 1 answer is asinine. – jjmusicnotes Aug 20 '20 at 2:59
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    The rests in the 10/16 bar are grouped to show a bar-division of 3+2+2+3. The only reason for dividing an almost empty bar that way is that there is some other instrument, or the left hand of the piano, playing notes in that grouping. Or because it says "3+2+2+3" over the the music just after the time signature. Which it doesn't. – Old Brixtonian Aug 20 '20 at 3:02
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    Related to this question – Aaron Aug 20 '20 at 3:18
  • Oh okay I see. I am mixing up both the terminology and concepts. Thank you for helping me understand. – Marek Ceglowski Aug 20 '20 at 5:07
  • Also yes you're right I did forget the actual question. It was asking to fill in the rests for that measure. The only thing in the measure was the sixteenth note at the start. – Marek Ceglowski Aug 20 '20 at 5:11

NOTE: See bottom of post for edit in light of new information since the original answer

There are two sets of pulses involved here: the "small" pulses -- in groups of 3 or 2 -- and the "large" pulses -- of which the exercise, as you've described it, requires four total. It sounds like you're conflating the "large" pulse strength with the duration of that "large" pulse (that is, its 3-ness or 2-ness). But they're independent. Whether the rhythmic ("small") grouping is 3-2-3-2 or 2-3-2-3 or 3-2-2-3, the metric ("large") pulse maintains its own pattern. When the meter comprises four main pulses, it frequently follows the strong-weak-medium-weak pattern (frequently, but not always).

In the specific example you're showing, the key to the "small" grouping is the duration of the rests: so, 3-2-2-3.

strong  weak  medium  weak
   3     2       2      3

Here are some additional examples of how the notation reflects the "small" groupings, but the metric pulse (the "large" groupings) remains the same.

"strong"F z z "weak"z2 y"medium"z3 yy"weak"z2 |
"strong"F z "weak"z3 y"medium"z2 yy"weak"z3 |
"strong"F z z "weak"z3 y"medium"z2 yy"weak"z2 |


Since posting the answer, the textbook question that prompted the OP is posted. As @Mycroft points out below (comments), and assuming every measure is expected to use the same rhythmic grouping, the first grouping must be 3, because the second measure contains a dotted eighth-note.

Based on this and this (rules for rest placement), the initial 3-groups must be filled out with sixteenth rests. Since the rests begin on a weak (part of the rhythmic) beat, we must fill the space with sixteenth rests.

Beyond that is conjecture.


I believe the book is at fault for not specifying the possibility of multiple answers. However, if there are rules demanding 3+2+2+3, then I would suggest these:

  1. A compound meter with an even number of beats should be divided into equal parts, so in the case of 10/16, 5+5. This requires 3+2 for the first half-measure.
  2. Empty space should be filled with rests in ascending order of duration, corresponding to the "large" metric beats. So that would mean 2+3 for the second half of the measure, rather than 3+2.
  • What language is that? You've lost me. – Old Brixtonian Aug 20 '20 at 3:15
  • @OldBrixtonian I don't understand your comment. My explanation isn't clear? The ABCjs code isn't displaying properly? Something else? Let me know, and I'll fix. – Aaron Aug 20 '20 at 3:17
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    @OldBrixtonian Yeah, I had never heard of ABCjs either. Discovered it here on MP&T. It's a language for specifying music notation. Pretty handy. The post to get you started is this one on Meta. The display problem was because I goofed the syntax: "X=0" should have bee "X:0". – Aaron Aug 20 '20 at 3:23
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    Can't see how the answer (in the exercise) should be 'the' correct answer. There just aren't enough clues - what am I missing? – Tim Aug 20 '20 at 7:06
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    A gentle warning to budding composers: you write something in 10/16 and I will hunt you down, and your family, and your friends... (The Usual Suspects). In all seriousness, anything other than a 5+5 rhythm, which would be better written as 5/8 anyway, would be more show than quality. – Carl Witthoft Aug 21 '20 at 13:10

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