I am transcribing the Spin-Dig Galaxy Theme from Super Mario Galaxy 2. At 0:21, there is a rhythm that I think is four dotted eighth notes and then two regular eighth notes. Should I notate that as shown in the image or is there some better way to do it?

Dotted Eighth Notes

5 Answers 5


It's easier to read when you show the beat structure by using ties:

Dotted-eighth_then_sixteenth | tied to an eighth_then_eighth | tied to a sixteenth_then_dotted-eighth | eighth_eighth.

I'm showing beaming with the _ and new beats (not beamed together) with |. This way, the underlying beat is always immediately clear, and it's much easier to see how the syncopation works. I would normally only use notation like what you have if I specifically want the passage to sound like a different tempo rather than syncopation, but I'm pretty sure the Mario music is syncopated.

  • 1
    Thanks! I thought about using the notation with the ties, but I wasn't sure if that would be making it more complicated than it really was.
    – Nick B.
    Jun 8, 2015 at 0:59
  • 1
    @NickB. Of course, in a way it's quite a bit more complicated! But as a performer I would immediately know how to play the tied version, with your version in the question it would take me a little bit to translate it, and I probably still stumble over it sometimes even after I got used to it. So in the performance sense, complicated visuals = simple sight-reading. Jun 8, 2015 at 1:02

Here are 4 versions from the following LilyPond input:

\version "2.19.2"

  \new RhythmicStaff { 8. 16~8 8~16 8. 8 8 }
  \new RhythmicStaff { 8. 8. 8. 8. 8 8 }
  \new RhythmicStaff { \tweak text #tuplet-number::calc-fraction-text
           \tuplet 2/3 4. { 8 8 8 8 } 8 8 }
  \new RhythmicStaff { \tweak text #tuplet-number::calc-fraction-text
           \tuplet 2/3 4. { 8[ 8] 8 8 } 8 8 }


this image

The orthodox variant strongly reflecting the relation to the underlying 4/4 meter is the first one: it's reasonably good for sight reading in an orchestral setting but may not reflect the inner logic well. Second line is probably how I might do it. Third line is using a duplet notation to get the logic better across, fourth line breaks up the standard beaming to stress the syncopic character (can also be done on the second line, of course). Whether you break the beaming up again depends on how much you want to break the connection with the 4/4 meter: the beam, after all, connects first and second half of the regular 2nd beat.

Since 2:3 notation is rather unusual, I'd probably go with line 2. And I'd probably not break the beam up in the middle since one "resynchronizes" with the normal meater actually at the end of the 3rd beat.

Under no circumstances would I beam across 3rd and 4th beat like you do in the image in your question.

  • I wouldn't normally beam all of the notes together, but MuseScore did it automatically and I'm not sure how to undo it. Thanks for a great answer!
    – Nick B.
    Jun 8, 2015 at 13:03
  • If I were going the tuplet route, I think it would be easier to read as four quarter notes in a 4:3 ratio. That way you don't have a new tuplet starting on the "and" of 2. Also, it's generally far more common to see tuplet ratios where the first number is higher than the second, at least in common time. 2:3 makes more sense to me in a compound time signature. Jun 8, 2015 at 15:35
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    If I had to play that rhythm in any kind of band or orchestra, I'd curse under my breath (and perhaps out loud) at anyone who notated it any other way than the second line (you might perhaps lose the beams altogether). In practice, quick readability trumps faithfulness to the nominal meter every time. Jun 9, 2015 at 7:58

Some notes are much shorter than that. I would actually write it in the rhythm, as it would make reading it much easier (it groups them by two, as they are in the piece). You could also add tenuto and staccato indication to better indicate the feel.

My personal preference would go to the third one, although the second one is very close.

Different suggestions of notation for the OP rhythm.

  • Second one is more correct, and easier to read, with the tie indicating a 'pushed' note. Always difficult to decide whether to staccato a note, or put in a rest after it!. The 3rd one goes across the middle of a 4/4 bar, seen more and more, but not good, and harder to read for some.
    – Tim
    Jun 9, 2015 at 9:30
  • Easier for some others, as the parallelism is more readily available. Matter of taste, I believe. That said, if I were to cross one or the other in nature, without knowing the rhythm beforehand, I might rather read the second one, hard to say. But the tenuto on a tied sixteenth bother me a little.
    – Édouard
    Jun 9, 2015 at 17:05

Could that bar be crotchet, quaver, two tied quavers, quaver, with two quavers at the end of the bar?


What time measure are you working in? Grouping of the notes is different for each and every time signature. If you are working in 4/4 time, then your group of the notes is definitely incorrect, as beats 2 and 3 in 4/4 should never be joined.

  • Although more and more the crossing of beats 2 and 3 is seen written. Does make it harder to read, I think.
    – Tim
    Jun 8, 2015 at 10:37
  • It still remains incorrect even if it happens more often.
    – Neil Meyer
    Jun 8, 2015 at 10:57

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