It says 2/4 but the sum of the notes is 5/8. Why is that?

  • Is this the very start of the piece? Because if so, Brian's answer may be incorrect. Dec 4, 2017 at 12:46
  • No. This is in the middle. Dec 4, 2017 at 12:49

2 Answers 2


The first half of the bar is a free run, and these are often written with a series of notes (slightly smaller than standard), which do not add up to the "correct" value; just play them rapidly, to fit in with the tempo of the piece. In principle there could be a "12-tuplet" marking, but there often isn't.

  • But as Killian points out, there's no reason not to mark it as a 12, to make it clear that it's not a grace-note run. Dec 4, 2017 at 12:46
  • If you are teaching music writing it might be appropriate to insist on having tuplet numbers, but if you are asking about reading music that is already written, complaining about it is not very productive. I don't know who wrote this, but I immediately found an exactly comparable bar in Chopin (Nocturne op 32-1 3 lines from end), so I think it is rather useful to be able to read this. Dec 4, 2017 at 20:02

This bar has mutiple problems. It's true that tuplet groups are counted differently from normal notes - but you're not supposed to omit the count indicator on them unless you have a long string of them and write, e.g. "simile" (similarly). And tuplets should still be printed in normal type.

Notes in small type like this are grace notes, and they're not supposed to be counted against the bar length at all, but without them you have only one quarter note, not two. So no matter whether these are grace notes or tuplets, this bar is printed in a confusing way that breaks the rules of proper notation.

  • Tell that to Chopin, Scriabin, and doubtless countless others.... Dec 4, 2017 at 20:05

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