The voice 3 (magenta) plays for just two semiquavers at the end of the bar:

measure without voice-specific rests

should I add a series of rests for that voice?

measure with complete rests for each voice (in color)

it's hard to understand which rests belong to which voice when rendered in black-and-white:

measure with complete rests for each voice (in black and white)

we could merge the voices (hard to see that only the E is tied):

measure with separate voices written as single voice

Well, probably the pragmatic answer is to just relax the interpretation (this is a piano arrange of a multi-instrument song) and say that the notes don't overlap:

measure with voices merged and overlapping notes removed

but nevertheless: if we were to try and notate the semiquavers + minim scenario: are all of the aforementioned representations legal? which would be preferred?


1 Answer 1


Elaine Gould, in her standard reference to music notation, Behind Bars, indicates that "Parts on one stave share a rest where possible" (p. 312) Thus, the initial half rest should be shared between the magenta and green voices.

In the second half of the measure, there should be a quarter rest and an eighth rest in the magenta voice so that it's clear the green voice is separate. (Again according to Gould, a dotted quarter rest is not permitted. "The longest permitted dotted rest is one value smaller than the beat. In crotchet [X/4] metres, the longest dotted rest is a dotted quaver [eighth note]" [p. 162].)

Example of rest distribution

It also would clean things up to move the "repeated A" voice to the upper staff. If desired, "handedness brackets" can indicate which As to play with which hand. (In MuseScore, these are found on the Master Palette in the Symbols list under Keyboard techniques.)

Example with voices redistributed

  • 1
    "permissible" under what authority? (Furthermore, every authority I'm aware of forbids dotted rests except to represent integral beats in compound meter, so it's more than preferable to use two rests; it's required.)
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 6:03
  • 3
    @phoog Elaine Gould's authority.
    – Aaron
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 3:28
  • Thanks. It might be interesting to see what other standard references have to say on the matter (I have the sense that older works would have separate rests, but I don't know when the preference changed). But I don't have any at hand.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 6:26
  • 2
    It's worth noting that Gould (on p. 313) also notes that: "In strict contrapuntal writing, each part takes separate stems and rests throughout." Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 7:04

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