The following signature is a 3/4 but has notes that sum up to more than 3 quarter notes.

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After researching a while, I found out Time signature 3/4 seems to have more than 3 quarter notes in a measure where they explain that I am supposed to look at the score as if it had multiple instruments written in there.

However, I'm unable to see how would that work out:

eighth note + half note = 2 1/8 beats
dotted half note = 3 beats

I'm confused, how is this read?

For reference, this is the Zelda's Lullaby theme.

  • 2
    I see this a lot in advanced piano and I view it as multiple voices rather than multiple instruments. But usually there is a rest in the upper voice unless the 2 notes start simultaneously. Here, they clearly don't so I would just treat it as though there is an eighth rest in the upper voice before the eighth note.
    – Caters
    Nov 11, 2018 at 2:09

1 Answer 1


That's actually written incorrectly. What's probably meant is

%%score B1 B2
V:B1            clef=bass
V:B2           clef=bass
% 1
[V:B1]  z (G, [G,E]4)
[V:B2]  C,6

The rest should also be written when both voices are in one system. Each voice should always fill the entire bar. Though Dekkadeci gives some examples from Elgar's 3rd Pomp And Circumstance march where this is justified:

  • If both voices have a rest on the same beat, it's ok to write only one rest symbol.
  • If a new motiv starts as an anacrusis in one of the voices at the end of a bar (and they were previously in unison) then it's ok to not write doubled notes in most of the bar.
  • I've seen several scores of classical music where there is more than one voice in a bar, but the rests for each voice are sometimes omitted. The most recent example of this I recall is Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 3 in C Minor.
    – Dekkadeci
    Nov 11, 2018 at 7:01
  • @Dekkadeci - true, but it's poor writing. It's usually easier to read if it works out mathematically, unless it's bl...ing obvious. And if this was, the question wouldn't have been asked. The purpose of writing music out is for others to play in the easiest way, surely?
    – Tim
    Nov 11, 2018 at 8:53
  • @Dekkadeci you mean the divisi viola parts, where both voices have a note/chord on 1 and 3 and a rest on 2 and 4 but only one rest symbol is written at these spots? Hm, that's kind of a corner case. Strictly speaking, each voice should have its own rest symbol, but since they're both at the same spot it would be kind of silly. Nov 11, 2018 at 10:16
  • The top voice might have the first note as a quaver or have a quaver rest but for me it should have one or the other.
    – PeterJ
    Nov 11, 2018 at 11:37
  • @leftaroundabout - No, I mean the bar just before the 1st "poco allarg." in Pomp and Circumstance March No. 3 (the only edition in IMSLP) where the 2nd voice is introduced only in Beat 4, none of the other notes have double stems, and no rests are used. It's in the Bb Clarinets I and II part.
    – Dekkadeci
    Nov 11, 2018 at 14:41

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