All of the Mel Bay books, My Gene Autry songbook, and I'm sure many others do not indicate rests for the entire song. At the end of a four bar lyrical line they just place a whole note when it is obviously a half note with a half-note rest. Should I write my lead sheets in a similar fashion? Does this make it easier to read the notation?

This is a perfect example, "saddle" should be a half note at best but they extend it two bars! enter image description here

Another example of many many examples. "Texas" is never held out as "-as" for 6 beats, that would sound foolish. enter image description here

"oh" and "bayou' are not held for 4.5 beats either. that would sound ridiculous! enter image description here

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    You say: "it is obviously a half note with a half-note rest". Obviously to whom? Based on what source material? May 3 at 17:56
  • This is not an arguing point but a simple question. Listen to the song or look through any Mel Bay book for a song that you are familiar with. It is very common to slur a word for 2 bars in the attempt to avoid notating a rest. Gene Autry doesn't sing "saddle" for 2 whole bars, and it is very obvious. May 3 at 18:13
  • I've listened to some versions, every one of them makes those notes as long as they "prefer", as that's how interpretation works. The examples you provide seem to be official, meaning that they are probably based on original transcripts/scores; that could be a choice or habit of the author/copyist or even the actual intention, the fact that all renditions use shorter notes is ininfluential. Consider that, especially for long notes in solo parts, the actual length of notes is always a choice by the performer, who might decide to make shorter or longer according to their taste (and breath). May 3 at 18:30
  • 1
    Is your question "why don't lead sheets follow verbatim the original/certain performances"? May 3 at 18:30
  • 1
    I immediately distrust your sheet music, since "Deep In the Heart of Texas" is written with the melody in F, but a key signature of C...
    – user45266
    May 3 at 19:41

It's important to avoid confusion between an original score and the common performance.

First of all, the parts you provided are most certainly taken from original written material of the author (or copyist), they are not based on performances.

When you say something like "it is obviously a half note with a half-note rest" you are basing that assumption on renditions of those pieces. The fact that those renditions are the most famous/common is ininfluential.

A performance doesn't always strictly follow the score, and for music that has also been covered by many musicians, it's common to take inspiration from those who came first and made that piece famous. That happens even for classical music, for which sometimes tradition deviates from the actual written part.

For instance, there are pieces of classical music that contain parts for wind instruments that have very long phrases without rests, but some rests will always exist as they are required for breathing.
Many piano parts contain notes that obviously cannot be sustained for that long due to the nature of pianos. Nevertheless, it's important to the composer to write those notes as long as they are intended from a composition perspective, even if they do know that those notes will never last that long.

The point is the intention a written score has to portray to the performer, then it's up to the performer to base their interpretation on it and eventually decide to make that note shorter (or longer!).

Writing a shorter would mean that that note "must" be intended shorter and that the phrase is temporarily interrupted by an actual rest (which might change its intention, and then its rendition).

  • Is a rest different than a breath, is a breathing pause not to be notated as a rest? I'm trying to figure out how I want to write lead sheets for my own songs. I've been notating breaths with rests and my lead sheets are littered with rests. May 3 at 18:58
  • A "technical" breathing rest is different from a "musical" breathing rest. While you obviously have to always consider the first, it doesn't mean that you have to write all rests because you think a breath is required. Consider spoken language: sometimes we take "rests" (and breaths) in our phrases even if don't need to actually breath, but in order to better emphasize what we're saying. Since you're asking this for your own music, I suggest you to think in terms of stringed instruments, which obviously don't need to breath. If you phrase were to be played by a cello, how would you write it? May 3 at 19:17
  • Then, obviously there are cases for which rests are required, not only conceptually, but physically/technically, and then you can think about that same phrase as played by a wind instrument or sung. Does that phrase require an actual rest for breathing? Is that rest important in musical sense? If that's so, then you can probably put a rest there, and the duration depends on your taste and what you want to portray. Consider that your assumption is only based on long notes, but the reality is that there are probably many other places in which the performer does a rest even if it's not written. May 3 at 19:22
  • Thank you. So rests are sort of like a coma, and breathing can happen wherever the performer feels it is good? May 3 at 19:24
  • @PabbleGoobs written rests are what they are: absence of sound lasting a certain amount of time, and, just like as notes, they are potentially open to interpretation. Breathing depends on technical limitations, personal taste and common practice. Consider rests as written punctuation: they don't tell you "where to stop", they allow you to understand the sense of the phrase; their rendition is up to you. Imagine enumerating a list of items: you'll probably write it with commas to separate them, but when you verbally enunciate that list you don't necessarily make rests for each item. May 3 at 19:47

I'm not sure why you ask the question.

The first two examples use rests within the first five bars. Those are rests within the first few phrases of music. That fits my basic expectations for a sung melody.

The third example of guitar tab I won't bother with, sources like that I would never rely on for good notation. Tab is notorious for not indicating rhythm either because of poor writing by the transcriber or limitations in the software.

But, between the lines, I'm sort of sensing the question may be more about where are the rests for the singer to take a breath?

A breath mark is a common way to indicate were a singer should breath without cluttering up the score with literal rests...

enter image description here

...the comma symbol is the breath mark.

The Mel Bay scores and other sources probably just take for granted you will breath at, or not even hold for the full notated duration until, the end of lines.

You could add your own commas. Obviously try to put the breaks in at the ends of musical/lyrically sensible phrases.

If the question is more about how long some singers hold notes in recordings, that's really a matter of performance interpretation. Popular songs like this are often interpreted pretty liberally. Also, some songs may have been recorded before there was a published score. That bring into question what the authoritative record of the music really is. I think you can approach these songbooks with some flexibility rather than treating them like urtext.

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