I know in 4/4 you are supposed to clearly indicate beats 1 and 3 in the measure, but does this apply to beat 2 as well? I am transcribing a song on piano and don't know which version of this measure is better/more readable: the one with a dotted quarter on beat 1.5 or a tied eighth+quarter on beat 1.5?

Measure with dotted quarter on beat 1.5

Measure with tied eighth+quarter on beat 1.5

  • It really doesn't matter much, regardless of beat. Tho' there are cases where writing the quarter note rather than two tied eighths gently suggests moving the emphasis off the beat as well. Jul 11, 2023 at 14:05
  • Can't see why the 2 A notes need tying - could easily be a crotchet.
    – Tim
    Jul 11, 2023 at 14:54

4 Answers 4


From my own kinda-serious-amateur viewpoint ("classical", plus jazz standards, ...) I'd say that the dotted quarter in the first version is clear enough, because the remainder of the measure is notationally clearly the second half of the measure, so we can infer what's happening in the first half. The tied version is fine, too, but does involve more marks on the page that need interpretation.

Also, I am happy with the tied eighths in the second half of the measure, since that set-up does confirm my sense of the division of the measure. I'd be able to read a quarter note there, instead, but it would somehow seem odd.

  • Those tied eighth-notes in the second half of the measure look odd. A quarter-note would be much more usual.
    – PiedPiper
    Jul 11, 2023 at 13:06

I know in 4/4 you are supposed to clearly indicate beats 1 and 3 in the measure

This is not the rule. Quarter - half - quarter in a bar of 4/4/ is correct notation, and breaking the half into two tied quarters is not recommended. Along those lines, your tied eighths should just be a quarter note.


Generally the aim is to use the notation that is the easiest to read. If it is hard to derive the timing from the score it is not good, but having lots of ties is also not particularly good. So most of the times it depends on the piece. You can have a piece where marking 1 and 3 is not necessary, you can have a piece where marking each single beat can be really beneficial.

In this case we have of course a bit of a special situation as we have a dotted beat. In classical music such notation usually implies some sort of stress or accent (think of the famous renaissance syncopation 4 4. 8).

This means that a notation with an offbeat tied dotted 4th might be slightly harder to grasp and feel (let’s be honest — musicians seldomly count but usually simply feel the rhythms). For this reasons I’d probably prefer the second notation in this specific case.


No need. Even writing through the bar without designating beat 3 seems to becoming the norm, much to the chagrin of many, including myself. So, your top image is very acceptable, and easily readable, thus playable. Stick with it!

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