I am trying to understand whether it's okay to have different spaces within tuplets in case if I have other voices, or should I aim somehow to have even spaces in tuplets? Here is an example:enter image description here

For me it seems okay, since it shows clearly separation of sound units in two voices. But would be nice to hear other opinions.

Update: In my program I solved this issue, and now it looks much nicer:

enter image description here

Update #2: I decided to fix also lower voice as well:

enter image description here

2 Answers 2


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The spacing isn't the problem here, I think. The above image contains two bars: a simplified bar then the actual supplied bar.

The first bar is playable - I can do 5 against 4 because I've practised it - but (for me anyway) that second bar with its nested tuplets is just not feasible, no matter how it's spaced or how much I practise it. The problem isn't legibility - you can see what the notation means - the problem is performing it.

That first pair of quintuplet quavers in the first bar becomes triplet quavers in the second bar. And the second pair of quintuplet quavers in the first bar become a quintuplet semiquavers in the second line.

If you were to present most musicians with this notation you'd get questions: What is this? And then you'd get a performance that only approximates what's actually written.

  • 1
    thanks for the comment, actually I am developing notation software, so it's more theoretical question rather than actual example that someone needs to play. I am just working right now on improving spacing in edge cases. Mar 3, 2023 at 14:42
  • I just would note that in your second bar it's a bit inaccurate, 3rd unit in second voice is in one vertical with 5th sound unit in first voice, which can be misleading, this is why I think separation sometimes useful like in the I example I presented.. Mar 3, 2023 at 14:46
  • I don’t disagree that “most musicians” wouldn’t be terribly happy with those nested triplets, but there are also plenty who eat those kinds of rhythms for breakfast. Lots of (post-)modernist music uses that kind of rhythmic complexity. At the extreme you have the “New Complexity” school of composers like Brian Ferneyhough — a random example on YouTube has a an 8:6 nested inside a 4:3 against a 7:6 and a 13:10, all already on the first page — but milder examples like OP’s occur already in their forerunners, and plenty of musicians play them.
    – PLL
    Mar 4, 2023 at 10:50

There's no point in leaving spaces. The triplet is three equal notes, so don't leave a space between the of the dots, for the lower quaver to fit: just write the quaver where it should come. Likewise with the five semis: put the quaver under where it would be played, and space those five equally. It becomes more intuitive then.

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    The four lower quavers should ideally be equally spaced as well. This gives theoretical spacing (in 300ths) of 75 for the bottom quavers, 40 for the triplet quavers, 24 for the quintuplet semiquavers and 60 for the final top quaver.
    – Peter
    Mar 3, 2023 at 11:06
  • @Peter - good point. I wish the same idea was used for tab.
    – Tim
    Mar 3, 2023 at 11:45
  • thanks for the suggestions, I updated the score: music.stackexchange.com/q/128780/91848 Mar 8, 2023 at 21:18

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