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Suppose I have a 9/8 time signature and I need to a put a rest somewhere which is worth a dotted crotchet (quarter note). Do I write a crochet (quarter note) rest with a dot, or do I write a crochet (quarter note) rest and then a quaver (eighth note) rest separately?

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It's the same thing. Dotted notes can be used in any time signature. The dotted crotchet signifies that the rest is for a crotchet and a quaver. If it fits the measure, it can be used, like in your example:

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But you can also use two rests, a crotchet and a quaver:

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If the grouping is 3-3-3 (quavers), I think the former case is more likely to appear.

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  • @Shevliaskovic, is there a reason why the former is more likely? Jun 16, 2017 at 19:10
  • @MichaelCurtis Presumably in an analogous way to grouping note stems by three. Personally I've seen a lot of such music and it always uses the latter notation, but I think that's because the former is just rare in general. Several publishers seem to avoid dotting quarter rests. Jun 16, 2017 at 20:31
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It somewhat depends on the location of the rest. If the 9/8 is meant to be a threefold division of three beats, then the dotted quarter rest should only be used on beats 1, 4, or 7. If the division is (the rare) 4+4+1 eighth notes, then the dotted rest should only appear on beats 1 or 5. Similarly, a quarter rest probably ought not to start on beat 2 (unless the underlying division is 1+4+4 eighths but that is difficult to distinguish form 4+4+1.)

I personally never (rarely anyway) use dotted rests; I just find dotted rests harder to read.

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It depends where the rest is.

  • If the rest begins on the beat it should be a dotted crotchet rest.
  • But if it's off the beat then it should be written separate quaver rests.
  • However, if two consecutive quaver rests are at the start of a beat they can be combined.

These rules help show the start of each beat clearly.


As stated in Elaine Gould's Behind Bars, p. 163:

[R]ests at the beginning of a beat may be combined.

Rests that follow a beat should expose all three divisions[.]


There are only seven places in a measure of 9/8 that a rest worth a dotted crotchet can go, so it might be worth listing them:
(unless you consider notes smaller than quavers)

Seven measure in 9/8 with quavers and rests.
Measure one: dotted crotchet rest, three quavers, three quavers.  Measure two: quaver, quaver rest, quaver rest, quaver rest, two quavers, three quavers.  Measure three: two quavers, quaver rest, crotchet rest, quaver, three quavers.  Measure four: three quavers, dotted crotchet rest, three quavers.  Measure five: three quavers, quaver, quaver rest, quaver rest, quaver rest, two quavers.  Measure six: three quavers, two quavers, quaver rest, crotchet rest, quaver.  Measure seven: three quavers, three quavers, dotted crotchet rest.


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There is a school of thought that forbids dotted rests entirely. But I think the rule may be broken when the dotted rest comprises a complete beat (and starts on a beat). Go with the dotted rest.

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