Although it looks like this rhythm would best be notated in 12/16, the drums play a straight 6/8 beat with accents on 3 and 6.

The first option is visually simpler, but it doesn’t represent the beat clearly. The second one would have a tie across two beamed notes of the same value, and I’m not sure which is more appropriate.

enter image description here

  • Given that standard accents of 6/8 are on 1 and 4, should not the beginning of the bar be moved? Your second attempt is not better in respect to separating beats 3 and 6, so I would keep the simpler version. Its difficult to see from this small snippets, whether duplets could help.
    – guidot
    Oct 25, 2018 at 7:20
  • What I meant is that though the metric accent is on 1 and 4, there’s also a noticeable dynamic accent on 3 and 6. I don’t know how drum notation works, but the bass hits on 1, the snare on 4, and the hi-hat on every beat but with a stronger pulse on 3 and 6.
    – Ash
    Oct 25, 2018 at 7:25

4 Answers 4


On the contrary, I think the first option does a fine job of representing the two beats, and it's also how I would expect to see those rhythms in band or orchestra music. I would not want to sight read the second example. IMO, the correct notation is always going to be whatever will most easily get your players to perform the way you want.

You needn't show the drum's accent pattern in what (I assume) is a different instrument's music, especially when the accent is on the 3rd and 6th eighth notes of the bar, and your music has no attacks on those divisions of the beat (and therefore nothing to accent -- you wouldn't generally put an accent mark under the second note in a tie).


I would write duples. Sorry I don't have any tool at hand to create an example image, but, using duples, in this case a pair of eighth-notes with a "2" above, you would write

first beat: eighth note, then under the "2", there'll be a "3" to indicate a triplet, consisting of an eighth note and a sixteenth.

Second beat: two eighth notes under the "2" to indicate duplet.

  • 3
    Nested tuplets? That seems even more difficult to sight-read, especially because it’s not immediately obvious that the triplets inside the duplet are supposed to be the same length as a normal sixteenth note.
    – Ash
    Oct 25, 2018 at 16:54
  • @Ash the triplet inside a duplet is not something I made up -- I've seen that and similar constructions several times. An experienced musician will have no problem interpreting this depiction. Oct 25, 2018 at 17:46

Here's my solution: Rhythm Notation

I don't like writing this in 6/8. 6/8 makes it hard to show the beat division, and 12/8 really shows the beat without weird beaming.

  • 1
    I think you will lose the "2 major beats" intent of 6/8 if you do this. Oct 25, 2018 at 17:47
  • OP says the hi-hat hits on every beat (of the 6/8) -- that's an argument for keeping 6/8.
    – Rosie F
    Oct 26, 2018 at 6:43

Try this. It's a combination of your two options. 6/8 drum beats

  • 1
    This could be improved by swapping the last two notes. That way the last note (which is tied from the previous one) falls on "6".
    – Rosie F
    Oct 26, 2018 at 6:44
  • @RosieF Good idea, Thanks for the suggestion, updated image.
    – Bruce
    Oct 26, 2018 at 6:57

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