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?

One measure in the time signature 10/16: sixteenth note, sixteenth rest, sixteenth rest, eighth rest, eighth rest, dotted eighth rest

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.

Question from music theory exercise book: "Add rests under the brackets to complete the following measures."  Four incomplete measures with the time signatures 10/16 are shown.  The first has a sixteenth note and a large gap (marked by a bracket).  The second has a dotted eight note and a gap.  The third has an eighth note and a gap.  The fourth has a large gap and a sixteenth note.

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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. Aug 20, 2020 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. Aug 20, 2020 at 3:02
  • 1
    Related to this question
    – Aaron
    Aug 20, 2020 at 3:18
  • Oh okay I see. I am mixing up both the terminology and concepts. Thank you for helping me understand. Aug 20, 2020 at 5:07
  • I meant to say pulses when I said beats. I understand this is a very elementary mistake and makes it more confusing. Hopefully these comments hell clear up what I was trying to ask a little bit. Aug 20, 2020 at 5:15

1 Answer 1


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. Aug 20, 2020 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, 2020 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, 2020 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, 2020 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. Aug 21, 2020 at 13:10

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