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I’ve seen plenty of questions here asking how to create beams over/under rests (generic example pictured below), but I don’t see any addressing my much more basic question: Is there any general rule or convention for knowing when beams should extend across rests, or whether notes separated by rests should be left unbeamed? I’ve Googled around and I’ve seen some writers explain it as it makes the notation easier to read, but in all honesty I don’t see it – it’s still the same notes and rests to my eyes, just with or without extra beaming.

If someone could explain the stylistic or technical rationale(s) behind this, and especially give some advice on when to use it or not, I’d really appreciate it.

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I would beam over rests if the rest comes in the middle of the beat or standard grouping, such as two sixteenth notes, sixteenth rest, sixteenth note. This keeps the grouping of one beat all together.

In other situations, like eighth-note, eight-rest, eighth-note, eight-rest putting the rests under beams can also be useful because in 4/4 times it visually divides the measure in two.

If there are many rests alternating with notes, and they are not under beams, it can become a little disorienting and cause the player to lose track of the downbeats and offbeats. The presence of a beam helps to clarify that because it shows the association between the first beat/part of beat and the second beat/part of beat.

  • Thanks. I’ll apply this to my scores and see what the visual difference does. – Walter Aug 31 at 2:02
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The principal question is whether the rest is part of a phrase or separates one phrase from the upbeat of another. Would it be reasonably natural in an arrangement to let a different instrument continue after the rest or not? If yes, breaking the beam is probably making sense. If not, beaming on to indicate this kind of phrasing continuity may be more appropriate and may also make it easier for the sight reader to stay in the continuity of the rhythmic phrase.

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