I'm notating a line for bass and effectively want the 1st and 4th semiquaver of a beat played staccato. I've thought of four ways of notating this that I think would effectively sound the same if played correctly, however I don't know which is clearest. Here are the options I've come up with:

1. A staccato dotted quaver followed by a staccato dotted semiquaver:

Staccato dotted quaver followed by staccato semiquaver

2. A staccato quaver followed by a semiquaver rest followed by a staccato semiquaver:

Staccato quaver followed by semiquaver rest followed by staccato semiquaver

3. A staccato semiquaver followed by a quaver rest followed by a staccato semiquaver:

Staccato semiquaver followed by quaver rest followed by staccato semiquaver

4. A staccato semiquaver followed by two semiquaver rests followed by a staccato semiquaver:

Staccato semiquaver followed by two semiquaver rests followed by a staccato semiquaver

I personally think the first and fourth examples are clearest, however I am open to suggestions as to why this might not be the case.

  • The four options will not effectively sound the same if played correctly - the 3rd and 4th options will have the shortest staccato notes in the 1st semiquaver of Beat 1, and the 1st and 2nd options will have longer staccato notes there. In fact, at NinSheetMusic (a video game music transcription site I contribute to), site staff there consistently have me turn the start of the 1st option into a non-staccato 8th note followed by a 16th rest.
    – Dekkadeci
    Feb 9, 2022 at 3:12
  • While my comment above applies more strongly to instruments like piano and wind instruments, I expect the bassist to mute shorter staccato notes sooner.
    – Dekkadeci
    Feb 9, 2022 at 3:15
  • Do you want the third and fourth notes to be played longer than the first and second?
    – phoog
    Feb 9, 2022 at 12:08

4 Answers 4


I would suggest the first instance, if only because it makes the notation more clear. On the other end of the spectrum, I recommend against using option 3; the eighth rest in the middle of the beat could be needlessly confusing.

While options 2–4 may be more accurate in terms of what you want, you run the risk of confusing the performer with the notation and even potentially adjusting their understanding of the phrasing. Depending on the larger context, for instance, it may not be clear that the C at the end of beat 1 is a continuation from the prior A.

With that said, you may find that notation programs only perform what you want if you notate it like in 2, 3, or 4. In this case, trust your own musical intuitions and not the software's playback.

Also keep in mind that text annotations in the score can often give your performers a clearer idea of what you want. Something like secco ("dry") or molto staccato above option 1 would seem, to me, to be very clear in intent.

  • This. Readability is key. The more short pauses and notes there are, the more confusing it is to read.
    – Neins
    Feb 8, 2022 at 21:41
  • I also say #1 because that is readable in 4, whereas the others are very subdivided and a performer might even choose to add the stems and flags of #1 to the sheet music if presented with 2, 3, or 4, for clarity, to ensure a precise rendering. Feb 9, 2022 at 13:09

Although I agree with Richard that option one is good in terms of simplicity and readability I think putting a staccato over a dotted note can be confusing or misleading. Some might think the first note should be longer than the second one.

For that reason I like option 4 BUT with the first and fourth 16th notes beamed together. That way you are showing beat one as a single unit. You are also showing the note durations in the most accurate way. This also eliminates the need to put staccato markings on the notes although it doesn’t hurt to include them.

Option two is not bad with the notes beamed together but having both notes be 16ths is more precise. Option three can also be done this way but seeing an eighth note rest starting on the second 16th may be a little confusing to some so it’s best to go with #4 with the notes beamed together.


You've left out the best one! Write the note lengths you want, beam to the beat.

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But are you sure you don't want this?

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Or this?

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  • I think I prefer the original no. 1 version.
    – Simon B
    Feb 9, 2022 at 12:24

I also think 1st and 4th are best.

Regarding the question whether the 1/16 note staccato is shorter or not: I think it is clear that they have the same duration. If they were meant to be different, one would put a portato line on the 1/4 note, or a wedge over the 1/16 notes.

Things would also be different if the 1/16 notes were all on the beat. This would clearly indicate that there seems to be a difference, otherwise the 1/16 notes would have been notated as 1/4 too.

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