Bongo rhythm

I am notating my bongos in 4/4. If you look at the last two bars, they are the same rhythm but notated differently.
Can you tell me if the 3rd or 4th bar would be the most correct way to notate the rhythm? (It seems silly using a tie there, but maybe it should be notated like this.)

3 Answers 3


The basic rule is not to write a note which "crosses" the mid point of a bar in 4/4. Either of your bars 3 and 4 are OK, and 3 is usually easier to read.

One exception to the "don't cross the mid point" rule is if the whole bar is syncopated, like the last bar in the example below. enter image description here

  • Ok so you can cross beats 3 to 4 (or 1 to 2) but not beats 2 to 3 in the bar. Is that correct? I don't understand the last bar in the example you posted then because in that case the beat does cross the half-way point between bars.
    – user35708
    Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 11:14
  • 4
    Don't like the last bar much at all. It can (and is) written like that sometimes, but it's preferrable to use ties, I believe.
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 12:24
  • That forth example is a special case that emphasises that the three middle notes are all the same duration. It looks OK only because there is no other variation of rhythm in the bar.
    – Ian Goldby
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 7:29

The 'rule' about not crossing the centre of 4/4 time is an old one, but a good one nevertheless. It makes reading easier - which after all is what writing music out should be about.

Personally, i'm happier reading things like this with ties, where it can be seen simply that there's syncopation.

However - since the sound of drums generally don't have any or a lot of sustain, another option would be to write in a rest instead of the second tied quaver. If hands are used alternating, then that would show not to play with whichever on the 4, but after on the & of 4.

  • Elaine Gould's Behind Bars seems to favor OP's third bar, but I agree with you: I would rather read the tied version in the fourth bar.
    – user39614
    Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 13:36
  • 1
    @David Bowling - I'm happy with tied when it means syncopation, but - that tie is hardly syncopating anything, and could only be played properly on a sustaining instrument, which ain't bongos!
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 13:45

Both are correct, but the 3rd bar looks more tidy and natural.


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