I am writing (in LilyPond) the beautiful lyrical waltz of Shostakovich, and I am getting a whole measure empty. What I want to achieve is the following:
Four measures of a piano score, with three whole measure rests in the right hand

But I am getting this:
Four measures of a piano score, with three misaligned whole measure rests and blank measure in the right hand

I'd tried several combinations of rest but none are working, the best I can get is what I've show here.

My current code looks like this:
(I use Italian language, but certainly you will see the point)

\language "italiano"
upper = \relative do' {
\clef treble
\key fa \major
\time 3/4
    r8 do8 re mi fa sol

lower = \relative do {
\clef bass
\key fa \major
\time 3/4
    fa,4 <do' fa la>4 <do fa la>^.
    do, <do' fa la> <do fa la>^.
    fa, <do' fa la> <do fa la>^.
    do , <do' fa la> <do fa la>^.

\score {
\new PianoStaff <<
\new Staff = "upper" \upper
\new Staff = "lower" \lower
\layout { }
\midi { }

Any ideas on how I can make this work properly?

  • 1
    Including bar checks would've generated some warning messages that might've helped you track this down. Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 19:00

2 Answers 2


As simple as:

R1 * 3/4

Read a whole-bar rest. Which is 4 quarter notes. 4 quarter notes divided by 4, times by 3 is a whole-bar rest in 3/4 time!


They are not whole-note rests, either in 3/4 or 4/4 time but whole-bar rests, to be clear. They have a default value of 4 quarters.

My way

Larger than 4 quarter-notes: 5/4 is R1 * 5/4
Equal to 4 quarter-notes: 4/4 is R1 * 1/1, simply R1
Smaller than 4 quarter-notes: 3/4 time is R1 * 3/4

The fraction mirrors the time signature.

I'm seeing it as a whole-bar is 100%, more than 4 quarters is more than 100%, less than 4 quarters is less than 100%.

While the documentation is of course correct and doesn't state the fraction way, apart from larger than 4 quarter-notes,(and @Aaron's answer should probably be the correct answer), I think there are valid reasons for using fractions:

  • fraction mirrors the time signature
  • introduces the fraction of a note concept early-on in learning lilypond, it's particularly used in:
    • tuplets e.g. \tuplet 3/2 { c8 c c} (but this is 3 in space of 2, not tech. a fraction)
    • placement of delayed ornaments e.g { c8 * 1/4 s\trill s\turn s\prall d8 }
    • other places like spacing
  • confusion: if I see 2, I expect to see a half-note not a whole-note (half-notes have the additional pain of looking like whole-notes). With 1 I'm always seeing whole-note symbol.
  • Ha ha, indeed looked like a quarter rest was floating over there and the 3/4 did pretty well! You made my day Owain. Thanks
    – Juan Chô
    Commented Sep 21, 2020 at 10:15
  • 1
    In the question I noticed that each of the rests had strange horizontal placement within its measure. With your explanation, now I see that the rests are placed over every fourth quarter note.
    – shoover
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 2:14
  • @shoover I tried to expand and make my answer and make it more clearer.
    – user70304
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 3:33
  • 1
    Small correction: the documentation does give the fraction option. It uses the example of: \time 13/8 // R1*13/8 | R1*13/8*12 |, demonstrating a single-bar and mutli-bar rest.
    – Aaron
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 6:35
  • Yeah, the distinction is there. Got to be careful about language single-bar and mutli-bar rest as \override MultiMeasureRest.staff-position = 2 works on both, there's no SingleMeasureRest. Ha, ha can go on forever about quirks of LP, even in docs "Full measure rests" never heard the term1
    – user70304
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 1:24

Use a capital R2. (including the "dot" for dotted half-note) for your rests to indicate a full-bar rest. See here: http://lilypond.org/doc/v2.18/Documentation/notation/writing-rests#full-measure-rests

Based on the rest placement, Lilypond is interpreting your rests as lasting four beats, thus crossing the bar lines. That seems to be why the blank measure occurs: it's three of the four beats of the third rest.


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