What is a notational error in this measure? It is in common time and bass clef. I was thinking that the dotted half note is the problem, but I am not sure how to change it exactly. Maybe to a quarter note + half note?

4 Answers 4


It is mathematically correct, but it tells the world (or at least, people who care about the details of notation) that whoever did it doesn't know much about music engraving, and presumably isn't using software that automatically does such things correctly.

A rest like that should always be written to show the two halves of a 4/4 bar - in other words, a quarter note rest followed by a half note.

For reference, here's page 161 of Behind Bars by Elaine Gould, generally regarded as the "bible" for modern music notation.

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Aside from that specific rule, writing dotted rests is generally discouraged except when they start a beat, because in complicated rhythms it can be hard to keep track of the dots. Which of these is easier to read? The second bar shows the four beats in the bar, and subdivides them into 8 half-beats to save the reader having to think about how to count the rhythm. The first bar doesn't.

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  • Sadly, more and more music is being written out which doesn't split 4/4 into two halves. But with that rest, after just one beat, especially at the end (there's a double bar line after), is it difficult to read?
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 5:16
  • I'm not 100% agreeing here. The case of 3/2 rest or note on 4/4 or 2/2 bar is acceptable if it does not lead to confusion. I agree about the other things like 1/2 or 1/4 across the middle of the bar. I consider it acceptable if the rest/note starts or ends at a bar end.
    – yo'
    Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 8:02

The rest really would be best to be written as a quarter note rest and then a half note rest. As a band director, I don't think I have ever seen a dotted half note used like this. Very rarely are dotted half note rests used

  • This is already explained in guest's answer. Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 4:09

There is no error. The note shown is worth one beat. The rest is worth two beats, and with the dot is worth half that again. 1+3 =4. Job done. What is the question about?

  • There's "Technically valid" and there's "do it sensibly" Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 14:23
  • 1
    @CarlWitthoft - I guess dv is yours, but what does the comment mean? Read my comment to OP. I feel you're more pedantic than usual today..!
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 15:51
  • You mean your comment to "guest" answer? Anyway, all I meant was that when there's more than one way to notate something, please pick the more common and more easy to read at a glance. Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 18:21

This doesn't look wrong to me.

However - is it the final bar of the piece?

If so then you need to look at the start of the piece to see if it started with a complete bar. If it did not (i.e. it started with a partial bar forming an anacrusis) then the length of the final bar is supposed to reflect that and the two together should add up to one complete bar. You say that it is in common time so for example if there was a one beat anacrusis at the start then the final bar should contain only three beats to make a total of four.

Apart from that possibility I can't see the issue.

  • The issue is one of readability Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 14:24

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