Hello, I am an IT student which have to make an application to write sheet-music. I basically know nothing about music. But, I won't explain why I stumbled upon this project even though I don't understand music. (Even though, well, this far, I finally understand some bit of it.)

So, mind me if the question feel noob (because I am haha)


Look below snippet :

enter image description here

enter image description here

(Well the below one which is mine, is super ugly, I know)

Look at the red circled notation.

Is it fine both way?

(Please ignore the picture and notation shape horror)

I just wanna know if the below one is also correct and acceptable, since otherwise I need to restructure my program right from the beginning, because it happened that I failed to plan this one correctly.


This program received input in numbered musical notation, and can be viewed in both numbered and staved notation. Basically it's some sort of a numbered to staved musical notation converter. (Not vice versa!)

Thank you.

  • 1
    Here's a general idea of how to beam notes from a music college's style guide: music.indiana.edu/departments/academic/composition/style-guide/…
    – Dom
    Nov 13, 2014 at 14:15
  • 2
    I would recommend having a flick through AB Guide Music Theory grades 1-5, a few pages in there should help with future issues. Nov 13, 2014 at 16:21
  • Also, the flat symbol in your key signature should be '♭', not 'b' (lowercase letter B).
    – dbmag9
    Jun 7, 2018 at 7:07

3 Answers 3


It is technically means the same thing, but conventionally, two eighth, sixteenth, 32nd...etc. notes together do have the beam if they are within the same measure. If this is for an assignment and you are looking to do this properly, then yes, you should have the beam.

  • Hmm, interesting, I want to ask something based on your answer. If I have [1 2] and [2 3] side by side in a measure, then is it ALSO correct to make it [1 2 2 3]? Since my current program structure can't support [1 2] [2 3], but can support [1 2 2 3]. Take [ ] as a beam connecting notes. (And also please read my edit to the OP before answering, MANY THANKS!) Nov 13, 2014 at 14:03
  • I can't say I'm familiar with numbered notation, but assuming that [1 2 2 3] indicates something like [A B B C], then yes, you can connect more than 2 notes with a beam just fine.
    – tarun
    Nov 13, 2014 at 14:06
  • yes, so if I may restructure it then [A B],[B C] becomes [A B B C] Nov 13, 2014 at 14:07
  • Yes, that is fine. Lots of music uses runs of notes all connected by a beam. Additionally, it looks like modern notation software does find it acceptable to span a beam across measures, however, this seems to be of debatable use for readability vs. what you're trying to convey with your phrase. I'd say you're perfectly fine if you don't span your beam across measures, but I am sure you'll find others with differing opinions on the matter.
    – tarun
    Nov 13, 2014 at 14:10
  • well it's settled now. it seems I can use it just fine with my current structure haha. Nov 13, 2014 at 14:13

I suggest you take a look at LilyPond, a music typesetting program. It does not have a graphical interface but rather takes a simple text description which it turns into suitable output.

You will get proper beaming according to normal typesetting rules, accidentals, reminder accidentals and naturals according to normal typesetting rules, beam directions according to normal typesetting rules...

So it is enough for you to generate the music, and the notation will just fall out. Your input above would look like

{ \key f \major <c' a'>4( <e' c''>4 <a' f''>4 <g' e''>8 <f' d''>8) }

and renders like this.

So you see that you'll get the beams just thrown in for free. LilyPond knows the beaming rules for all the common meters, and generating input for it is rather straightforward.

  • I know lilypond, but the problem is my input is not staved notation, but numbered notation. Nov 13, 2014 at 14:59
  • You could try translating numbered notation -> lilypond syntax; and then you get pretty staff rendering without extra work. (note there is also ABC format which has renderers too, but is somewhat limited compared to lilypond). I don't see how you're getting staff notation out without assigning the numbers to lettered notes somewhere inside your code already.
    – Dave
    Nov 13, 2014 at 15:06
  • @Dave Why I never thought about that before... :/ Nevermind though, since the due date is in a couple of weeks. restructuring it is almost impossible (since I have to learn to use lilypond first). But if I had time, I'll definitely consider that. Thanks. Nov 13, 2014 at 15:09
  • @Dave after give it some thinking, I think I'm going to try your suggestion! Since it's neater that way. Many thanks! (And I don't have to restructure my program at all!) Nov 13, 2014 at 15:13

A common style historically when writing vocal music has been to tie notes together with a beam if they are sung as part of the same syllable, and use separate flags for each when they represent separate syllables. Today it is more common to write vocal music with notes beamed according to the beat, and use slurs to tie together notes that are sung as part of the same syllable. Singers should be able to read either style, and if the rhythm of the text (with regard to single-note or multi-note syllables) is more complicated than the ryhthm of the music (with regard to notes being on- or off the beat) then beaming by syllable may make things easier to read. On the other hand, since most singers today are used to reading slurs, there's really nothing wrong with beaming consistently according to beats even in cases where singers could read the music just fine either way.

  • This is correct, but I suggest you don't get sidelined into worrying about antique styles of notating vocal music.
    – Laurence
    Jun 7, 2018 at 0:16
  • @LaurencePayne: Unless someone has issued a decree proclaiming that the traditional way of notating choral parts shall henceforth be considered "wrong", I think the proper answer to whether a notation is correct is to observe that conventions have shifted.
    – supercat
    Jun 7, 2018 at 15:02
  • Yes, that's the modern opinion. 'Syllabic beaming of vocal parts is wrong. We don't do it any more.' Sometimes we choose to reproduce it when engraving older music. When the notation program that this thread's about matures, 'non-standard' beaming should certainly be an option.
    – Laurence
    Jun 8, 2018 at 12:01
  • 1
    @LaurencePayne: What authority are you quoting, and in what contexts are their judgments authoritative? If Associated Press Style Guide, for example, says that a certain usage is "wrong", that doesn't mean that it's incorrect English, but rather that they would not accept it in material for publication through them. Outside of such contexts, what makes a notation "right" or "wrong" is whether the audience will readily understand its meaning. In general, today's readers will find beat-beamed notes easier to read than syllabic-beamed notes, so the former would generally be preferred.
    – supercat
    Jun 8, 2018 at 15:57
  • @LaurencePayne: In any case, my main point was that anyone who looks at historical sheet music is going to see both forms, and should recognize that the syllabic-beaming used to be regarded as the correct form, and should not disparage the work of engravers who followed that convention in decades past.
    – supercat
    Jun 8, 2018 at 16:02

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