I'm trying to copy a song from a book in which they were using a whole note to represent a full measure in 6/8 time.

If I try to use the whole note duration in Lilypond (1), it lasts 8/8 and everything gets unaligned. So far I could only replicate the song using half + quarter notes with a tie, but if I could replace it by a whole note it would be much cleaner.

I've also tried to do a half note + space and hide the stem, but it doesn't look very good.

Is there a way to simply change the length of the whole note to match 6/8?

  • 3
    Exercise your prerogatives as an editor: replace them with dotted minims (half notes), and you'll have the standard notation for 6/8 meter. Semibreve (whole note) lengths are only used for whole-measure rests in 6/8. I see no good reason to perpetuate a bad and somewhat confusing notational quirk.
    – user16935
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 7:08
  • 3
    Sure, you can just say c1*6/8 to get a note that looks like a whole note but sounds for 6/8. But I agree that simply correcting the score is the better option. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 7:10

2 Answers 2


If you start with a note (or rest), add a time value, then add a multiplication symbol with the fraction of rhythmic value, you will arrive at your desired note.


So, for instance, a1 means "the note A at the full value of a whole note." But a1*6/8 means "the note A, written as a whole note, but taking up only sixth-eighths of the value of a whole note." This fraction may incidentally be whatever you want.

I've more often used a whole note to indicate a note lasting the entire measure when it's longer than usual (e.g., a1*11/8 to make a whole note fill a measure of 11/8 time; or s1*24 to mean "make an invisible spacer rest that lasts the length of twenty-four whole notes"), but marking a whole note to mean less than the normal value seems out of the ordinary. For 6/8 time, a dotted half note is normal to fill in the measure.

One last note about rests. You do see a "whole" rest fill a measure of any time signature. In Lilypond, that is not represented by r1 --- that will still get you the whole rest taking up its normal value --- but rather by R1 which denotes a "MultiMeasureRest," which will always appear as a whole note, but also be directly centered in the measure.

As found in the documentation on full-measure rests, the number after an uppercase R will denote such a rest. Therefore, since 2. fills the entirety of a 6/8 time signature (as well as 3/4), use R2.. You will end up seeing something that looks more like what you normally would encounter.


LilyPond offers the choice between full-bar and normal rests as R and r. The same for notes is not available. As mentioned in the comments, c1*6/8 will take you half the way to your wish. However, this kind of full-bar note is almost only employed for baroque bordun notes (usually a breve instead of a semibreve head) and then, like full-bar rests, the placement of the note is in the middle of the bar rather than at its start.

It does not sound like what you are having here, so it would be musically advisable to use c2. instead, namely the musically correct duration. Or possibly c4.~c4. depending on how strong the subdivision of the bar is rhythmically.

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