I know that in 4/4 beats 1 and 3 should be clearly indicated to make it easy to read. I just wanted to ask if this is only necessary if you use a lot of smaller note values like 8th or 16ths or is it also a must if you have quarters?

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To me the first one looks unnecessarily messy, so is the second version also ok or should you always try to use the first version?

2 Answers 2


The first version is, without question, superior. This is because it clearly shows the midpoint of the measure, beat 3, which takes place with the eighth-note G. Contrast this with the second example, where beat 3 is just somewhere in the middle of the dotted-quarter G.

In other words, showing beats 1 and 3 in 4/4 time is ideal even if you mostly use quarter notes and eighth notes, not just smaller values like 16ths.

Some people have actually taken to call this the "midpoint rule" or the rule of the "imaginary barline," where good notation normally includes a dedicated note value that aligns with the midpoint of the measure.

For more on this concept, see What is the clearest way to notate this rhythm?

  • 1
    It probably goes without saying that this doesn't apply to whole notes in 4/4 or equivalents.
    – user45266
    Oct 30, 2018 at 23:47
  • 1
    Another name for this is the imaginary bar line. There are also imaginary bar lines that are less important on beats 2 and 4 that may come into play if you are playing a lot syncopated 16ths for example.
    – b3ko
    Oct 30, 2018 at 23:52
  • To extend Richard’s point here: rhythms should always reflect a given measure’s metric subdivision. Oct 31, 2018 at 10:51
  • If it's best to use a dotted quaver for the first syncopation why not the second as well? I find the second version inconsistent.
    – PeterJ
    Oct 31, 2018 at 12:21
  • @CarlWitthoft - I was suggesting that for consistency in the first version the last crotchet E should be a tied pair of quavers. .
    – PeterJ
    Oct 31, 2018 at 13:26

The point of writing any music out is to make it so that others can read it easily. Why else? So, with that in mind, clearly delineating the halfway point in 4/4 (and 6/8) mainly makes it easier to read. there seems to be a move away from that, sadly, but using the dots as in the first version alerts me to syncopation quicker than reading the second. the clue being the tie across the middle of the bar, making it a pushed note, just like the last quaver. true, the second isn't difficult to read, but if there are two ways, and one is easier, why choose the other?

With smaller denominations, going across the bar centrally is the same. Try not to do it.

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