I note a common practice in vocal lines, where a phrase ends with a long note: in many cases such a note is written not to go up to a strong beat, but to extend a short way beyond that. For example it might be written as a note lasting a full bar, tied to a quaver/8th in the following bar.

Why do composers do that? Is it an attempt to make choir singers pronounce the final consonant more accurately together? If so, then that would not apply to songs for a solo singer, or to syllables that don't end in a consonant. So I suspect that there's an additional reason.

I ask so that I can learn when I should, or needn't, do it in songs I write.

Example of the end of one phrase and start of the next; first, without such a tie; second, with one.

two different ways to end a phrase

ETA: since posting this question I have found this answer. It responds to a question which is similar but not identical: it concerns only a work's final note, and the significance (if any) of rests between a final note and the final bar-line. My question concerns any phrase ending in a long note.

  • It really depends whether the writer wants the song to finish exactly at the end of a given bar, or go into the next, and finish short in that bar. As most things musical, rules as such don't apply - do as you think sounds best for each piece.
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 6:43
  • As you ask for singers and choirs it might depend of the ending consonant. Many amateur singers don't keep the whole note and give not the exact value. Normally it is up to the conductor to tell the members how long he wants the note exactöy hel Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 7:36
  • 1
    This type of notation is to emphasize holding the note through the next downbeat. People have a tendency to duck out of long notes early. Even a properly held long note would still end at the point of the next beat's arrival. Notating in this fashion ensures the note is held through the arrival of the next down beat. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 13:08
  • I would expect to see the tie-over when some other voice (or instrument) is coming in on the downbeat, and the composer wants to ensure significant overlap of the voicings. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 14:14

2 Answers 2


As you ask for singers and choirs it might depend of the ending consonant. Many amateur singers don't keep the whole note and give not the exact value. Normally it is up to the conductor to tell the members how long he wants the note exactly held. If you are conductor yourself I you can say the ending consonant has to be sung on the first eighth note. I thinks it on the seconde it might disturbing the new phrase of the accompaniment or the soloist.

As you say you want to know this as a writer it is up to you what you want to have performed if you have a clear concept where it should end. But it will be up to the conductor to tell the singers where he wants the final consonant pronounced together.


This depends on the style of music you are writing, and the corresponding performance practices.

I'm more familiar with instrumental music than vocal, but the same basic idea applies to both.

If you write a phrase that is followed by a rest, performers will tend to make the last note shorter than its written duration, whether or not the there is a slur ending on the last note.

For an orchestra violin section, for example, the fact that each player will stop playing at a slightly different point in time doesn't matter, in many situations. For a choir singing a word ending with a consonant, it matters a lot that everybody stops together.

If a piece with fairly simple rhythms is performed with a conductor, of course the conductor can indicate visually exactly when to stop, but there is a practical limit to how many gestures a conductor can make when directing a larger scale work.

The tied note in the next bar does not literally mean "hold the note for the extra written duration in the next bar" but "stop precisely on the first beat of the next bar". Among professional performers the jargon for this is "off on one" (or whichever beat of the bar it is).

This notation convention is very common in scores for TV and film music, where everybody (often including the conductor!) is sight reading the music during the recording session, time is money and rehearsal time is "wasted money", and the performers all know what the notation means without any explanation.

The other answer you linked to is essentially the same, except the other question was only about the final note of a piece (which of course is not usually followed by a rest, if this notation convention isn't used) and the idea that the release of the note is accented doesn't necessarily apply.

Of course a consonant at the end of a note is inevitably a sort of accent, but in vocal music you don't necessarily want it to be a big accent, and the best way to make it unobtrusive is for everybody to pronounce it together.

  • I"m not convinced of your arguments. Any semipro musician knows better than to stop early (unless there's a staccato or other mark). Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 14:13

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