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How is this a 6/8? The notes can’t fit

Measure containing too may beats

The measure comes from Metallica "Nothing Else Matters" guitar solo.

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    You are correct that there is one sixteenth-note too many. However, without knowing what song and what measure number this is, no correction can be offered. – Aaron May 4 at 6:31
  • Thanks Aaron I didn’t know adding the song would help as I assumed the notation was correct but I was missing something out – sww May 5 at 7:03
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Usually when a question mentions "too many notes", it means there are multiple voices. The 1/16th rest looks like it might belong to a different voice. EDIT: The question did not mention "Nothing Else Matters" when I wrote this answer.

If you look at the accompaniment guide written above the staff, below the chord symbols D5, C5, G, F#, there's a clear rhythm that fits in 6/8, and it lines up with the notes on the staff.

notes in the measure explained

So: the 1/16th rest in the middle is not part of the timeline. If you leave it out, there's no problem.

The extra rest was perhaps left there by accident. Notation programs usually warn or prevent the user from entering more notes and rests in a bar that can fit the time signature, but e.g. by using multiple voices and hiding some of them it is possible to create a situation shown in the picture. In some applications it's even possible to disregard the time signature and enter a different amount of elements.

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    Alternately, the rest could still be correct if the first eighth note were a sixteenth note, instead. Notating it that way would keep the rhythmic gesture and grouping the same (i.e., mostly sixteenth note duplets). Context would be helpful in determining which method might be preferred. – Thomas N May 4 at 14:14
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    There aren't multiple voices. Just a mistake. – Michael Curtis May 4 at 16:33
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    @MichaelCurtis Maybe in the notation program there were multiple voices. That's what I would suspect if I saw this in Sibelius or something. I hope you noticed the part in bold: "the 1/16th rest in the middle is not part of the timeline". – piiperi Reinstate Monica May 4 at 16:40
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    If the sixteenth note rest were another voice, pretty much no one would notate the beam of preceding A-C# like that. If you hide the rest in that picture, it would look really weird. Possibly even absurd. – Divide1918 May 5 at 3:30
  • @Divide1918 The beaming is indeed odd, but I think we can agree that someone has been struggling with the features of a notation application. ;) What happened here? There are several competing theories. In Guitar Pro, it's easily possible to write more notes than there should be in a measure, but in Sibelius it needs a bit of effort. Maybe this was Finale or something else? How would one produce this notation in program X. – piiperi Reinstate Monica May 5 at 6:21
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The measure comes from solo of "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica. The first warning sign is that it is notated in 6/8 while the original song is in 3/4 (but see the edits below). This suggest the score is not well written, and indeed there is a mistake in the measure you quoted.

You can find better rhythm notation in this video:


Edit: After browsing the internet I found many scores notating the song in various combinations of 6/8, 9/8 and 3/8. I would personally still believe 3/4 better represents the music. Here some people argue that 6/4 would work the best https://www.quora.com/Why-is-the-time-signature-of-Metallicas-%E2%80%98Nothing-Else-Matters%E2%80%99-6-8-and-not-6-4 I withdraw my initial criticism, but this also deserves a separate question.

Also various people notate that measure differently. Here I list several versions: enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

As you see there are differences in interpretation of the rhythm. At this moment I'm not sure what is the reason. I think in the version you quoted they tried to notate the rhythm from the last picture I show, but they omitted the triplet sign, making the notation nonsensical.

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    "This suggest the score is not well written" +1 – Michael Curtis May 4 at 16:32
  • @MichaelCurtis Oh, I see it now, it's notated 6/8 in half tempo (with mistakes, perhaps there was meant to be a triplet on the first quarter note?)... but it really feels wrong to me, I hear it in 3/4. – user1079505 May 4 at 16:46
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    I always heard it in slow 6/8. Already the guitar intro points strongly to that intepretation, and so does the drum groove throughout the song. Though, one of the fun things about ternary meters is of course that they allow playing with the ambiguity – like Steve'N'Seagulls do with their version, which changes it completely, putting everything in doubletime, the verses in 3/2 before opening up the chorus into a bona fide 3/4 waltz. – leftaroundabout May 4 at 22:20
  • @leftaroundabout Yeah, so I definitely don't want to discuss this here. – user1079505 May 4 at 22:50
  • This is one of the first times I posted to ask in music stack exchange and got so many wonderful response from the experts! Thanks a lot everyone and looking forward to post and answer more questions soon :) – sww May 5 at 7:01

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