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In this example - my understanding is that every bar has four quarter notes, in the third bar, we can see only two eighth notes connected to a half note - does that not make a total of 3 quarter notes? The left hand part has a whole note - so that is okay - correctly equal to four quarter notes for that bar. But in the treble clef part for that last bar, shouldn't there be a quarter rest? (or is that supposed to be optional if the rest is in the end?)

This notation is from a published source - https://krishnadasmusic.com/products/krishna-das-selected-sheet-music-vol-1-digital

example

This is the full piece - Score for "Radhe Shyam" by Krishna Das and John McDowell

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    More dots are missing, in the last bars of the fourth and fifth systems.
    – Jos
    Sep 13, 2022 at 7:44

3 Answers 3

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Yes, the last bar shown contains only three beats in the treble clef, and no, this is not okay, especially since the bass clef contains four beats.

Since there's a repeat sign, sometimes you might see a situation like this that would be okay: if the repeated section started with a pickup (anacrusis); for instance, if there had been one beat before the first full measure, then the last measure would contain three beats and a repeat sign, and the repeated pickup would be the "fourth beat." But that's not the case here.

We can only guess what the correct notation should be; perhaps there should be a rest, or perhaps the last note should be dotted. My guess is the latter, since that's an easier mistake to make. But the difference between sustaining the pitch and ending it "early" is minimal.

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    Put a rest in: the poor singer needs to take a breath in somewhere!
    – Tim
    Sep 12, 2022 at 13:44
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    @Tim (That's a good next-level point: notate it as a dotted half and a singer will probably take roughly the final beat as a breath anyway. I make this point often when talking about articulation, staccato, etc: The note duration doesn't really tell you "how long the note lasts." Not really, not most of the time. Instead, they tell you "how long until the next note starts." Sometimes choral directors will make a point about sustain, or infinite-sustain instruments like organ can care about cutoff. More often, though, we taper, we breathe, we articulate, and rhythm is composed of attacks. Sep 12, 2022 at 14:01
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    I would instead say that the note duration literally does indicate how long the note lasts, but individual singers/players/directors can choose to override the score's information for practical purposes like breathing. As an experienced choral singer, I promise that I want all choral singers to default to "sing the note for the exact duration indicated unless explicitly told otherwise" :) Sep 12, 2022 at 20:37
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    That's a false frame. Experienced singers know there are lots of possible ways and places to breathe, and thus they also know that they need to follow the specific choices of the conductor so that the ensemble sings as one. Sep 12, 2022 at 22:10
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    And my take on @phoog's point is that it's not so much that the pros don't care about togetherness—it's that, the more fluent they are in their convention and with each other, the less they have to talk about it. You hear less "but how swung are these 8ths? are they more or less than two triplets," and a lot more "You'll know it when you hear it"—and they do. From Duke Ellington to Jordi Savall. (But I guess if you don't yet, you just have to put in the time, and talk about it, until you do....) Sep 13, 2022 at 22:52
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The third bar is wrong. The upper stave contains three beats, the lower stave contains four. There's no room here for wriggling, it's just plain wrong.

Probably just a misprint though. Adding a dot to the final half note would make everything add up.

LATER Now you've shared the whole piece, we can confirm it's a simple misprint. There's either a dot or a quarter rest missing from all the short measures.

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The recording on which the score is based (linked below) makes clear that each bar should have four beats. The bars in question should have been written either with an extra quarter note (first example below) or with a quarter rest at the end of the bar (second example below). Either one would reflect the musical result demonstrated in the recording: the first would demonstrate the melodic intent but without a breath; the second would demonstrate the breathing, but without the melodic intent.

Example rhythm with ties

Example rhythm with rest

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