Is it acceptable to draw a tuplet line as an arc (including number in the middle of the arc of course), Or does the line strictly need to be an angled line (just like '[' rotated 90 degrees)?

P.S. I am making an application for musical notation, so, I need to be certain. And unfortunately, I have no musical background, so, sorry if it's a very basic question.

  • Musical notation is incredibly complex, and if you're writing engraving software without a certain level of competency, you're going to have a bad time. I would strongly recommend finding a collaborator experienced in musical typesetting; at the very least to check your work.
    – NReilingh
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 16:09

3 Answers 3


If you use a arc, a reader might (and probably will) understand that it is a slur and that the notes are to be played legato.

Thus, if you’re writing engraving software, do not use arcs to indicate triplets. You’ll however have to include them at some point to indicate legato articulations.


A lot of music these days seems to have no line at all drawn over/under tuplets.Handwritten dots will usually have an arc - it's easier to do - but provided the notes are joined together with a common beam (the line joining them ) there's sometimes no need to put a number, as the number of notes is the clue, but it does take away any ambiguity. However, if rests are included, a line (of some sort) makes the notation easier to read.

  • so, is it fine if I use an arc instead of '['? I don't think your answer is answering my question. Or at least I don't understand it. Sorry. Commented May 20, 2014 at 7:48
  • If you google tuplets, you'll see all three types - arc,angled and merely the number, as in 3 for triplets.So any will do the job well.Whatever you use, putting the appropriate number will help readers.
    – Tim
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 7:50
  • 3
    You should NOT use an arc; that notation is old and outdated. Tuplets should be notated with either beams or brackets always. Commented May 20, 2014 at 8:14
  • @jjmusicnotes - is that because it may be mistaken for a slur? Or is it just to look more up-to-date? I have no problem reading either, and so many now have no line anyway.They'll have the beams regardless (unless they're longer than quavers).So, either/or, or both?
    – Tim
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 8:45
  • 2
    Nice Wortspiel there. I second all the other stuff you said. Beamed notes just need a number, and the bracket is for either quarter notes or higher or notes with rests mixed in.
    – BobRodes
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 15:35

Just to add something more in here: you may not need to consider the brackets a priority feature in your application.

As we have said, you would only use them with unbeamed notes, which means pretty much quarter notes and groups with rests in them. Furthermore, if the meaning of the number is obvious without the brackets, you can leave them out. In fact, you should leave them out to reduce clutter. Have a look here for an example, at 7:49:

Brahms's piano music is a great resource to study this sort of thing, because he uses so many tuplets in his music.

  • The link here is dead.
    – Dom
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 3:22

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