In a bar of 5/4 there are: 4 sixteenth notes (1 beat), a dotted quarter note (1.5 beats) which leaves me with representing 2.5 beats as one note (not a half note tied to an eighth note or other tied variations). So what single note should I write to represent 2.5 beats?


9 Answers 9


It has to be this. An 8th tied to a half. Or, possibly, if the grouping is 2+3, split the dotted quarter into a tied quarter and 8th.

I know you asked for NOT a tie. But that isn't how rhythmic notation works. And inventing a personal system for something as simple as this isn't sensible. Sorry!

enter image description here


Well, I suppose this might be theoretically possible with some sort of combination of nested tuplet brackets, but then you'd just create a bar that would be incomprehensible to normal musicians.

Keep in mind that where you put ties is not arbitrary: ties are frequently used to represent the beat structure, even when it is possible to write a single note value rather than two tied notes. Here, since it isn't possible to write a single note of five eighth-note duration using standard note values, it's all the more important to use the tie to indicate the beat structure.

That is, if you're in 5/4, the use of that time signature generally indicates 5 quarter note "beats" per bar. For example, say you were writing a bar of 4/4 time with two notes that are 1.5 beats long and a final quarter note. While you could write it as dotted quarter-dotted quarter-quarter, many composers might write it out as dotted quarter followed by eighth tied to a quarter, then a final quarter. The reason is that showing the third (strong) beat in a 4/4 bar improves legibility. That rhythm isn't perhaps complicated enough to require such a tied note, but more complex rhythms might make it very helpful.

For your rhythm, with four 16ths on the first beat, and a dotted quarter on beat 2, it's actually helpful to show an eighth note on the upbeat of 3 tied to a half note on beat 4. The only time you'd want to show a long duration note occurring on an off-beat in a complex metric situation like this is if it's a regularly occurring pattern.

(And if you are commonly having long-duration notes fall on the "and of 3" in a 5/4 bar, maybe you don't actually have a 5/4 meter, but instead a 10/8 meter that is segmented (5+5)/8 and it would be better to notate it that way.)

  • 1
    Last paragraph: or notate with just 5/8 bars alone!
    – Richard
    Commented Dec 15, 2019 at 4:05

As it turns out, you just plain can't do this with only one note value. In fact, in Are ties necessary?, the questioner cites this exact problem of five eighth notes as one possible reason why ties must be used in our notational system.

Which leads to the next obvious question: why are you seeking a solution that uses only one a single note? In all meters, you want to show the organization of the beats within the measure. As such, for the sake of notational clarity, you would likely want to show this rhythm as an eighth note tied into a half.

  • A triply dotted triplet half note has the same duration as five eighth notes.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 16 at 16:08
  • Well, I'll be. So it does! Didn't see that one coming...
    – Richard
    Commented Mar 21 at 8:12

An eighth-note tied to a half-note (or some other such tied combination) is the standard way to notate a single note with a duration of five eighth-notes.

When you say you want “one note, not […] tied variations”, are you perhaps confusing ties with slurs? They’re visually similar, but conceptually distinct: when a slur/tie connects noteheads of different pitches, then it’s a slur and just means they should be articulated legato, but when it connects two noteheads of the same pitch, it’s a tie, and really does mean they represent a single note of the combined total duration (unless it’s combined with certain other articulation markings, e.g. staccato dots).

As Richard’s answer says, the choice between using a half note tied to an eighth, or an eighth tied to a half, or other possible combinations, should be determined by how they fit into the meter of the whole bar: the break between the two notes in the combination should line up with as high-level as possible a division of the meter.


I agree with the other answers that a tie is probably the best choice, since the musician is probably counting in 5/4, so they should be able to see the beat. It only requires one tie.

But if you want to emphasize the fact that the measure is being split exactly in half, you could make a 2-note half-note duplet of the 5/4 measure, though as said before, this is already notatable with ties, and I think it's less convenient to read or to comprehend.

  • There are contexts where it might be easier. Even in, for example, 6/8, you might see four dotted eighth notes in one measure or you might see a quadruplet bracket with four undotted eighths. The latter is perhaps a better reflection of the composer's intention.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 16 at 16:04

A triply dotted note is longer than its undotted counterpart by a factor of 15/8. A note that is part of a triplet is shorter than its "normal" counterpart by a factor of 2/3.

The product of these factors is 5/4.

A "normal" half note has the duration of four eighth notes. A triply dotted triplet half note, therefore, has the desired duration of five eighth notes.

Do not do this in any music that you expect anyone to be able to read at sight.

This is an interesting mathematical puzzle, or maybe not so interesting, but it is not an effective way to communicate.

I discuss the reasons for this briefly in my answer to Representation of a 5/16 note duration.

A somewhat more detailed discussion is also available in Athanasius's answer to this question, which I somehow overlooked before now.


I propose you indicate as instruction to the piece: a whole note=5/8 everything will be clear and you can forget all the rest, as it is your advice about the interpretation of your notation:

enter image description here

  • 1
    You DO realise Albrecht Hügli is joking? :-)
    – Laurence
    Commented Dec 15, 2019 at 16:42
  • 2
    I’m not joking at all. In trecento in Italy and the mensural notation theoreticians also created additional signs that gave instructions for alternative measures and note lengths. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mensural_notation Commented Dec 15, 2019 at 21:42

I know this is a long time after the above discussion but I had the same question and found this post in my search for an answer. Then I worked it out in Musescore3. Add a semibreve to the second beat of the bar (which just happened to be where my note was). This will create a minim in the first bar tied to a minum in the second bar . Then select the second minim and dot it. You have a 5 beat note.

  • This question is looking for a 2.5 beat note, not a 5 beat note. So, a minim tied to a dotted minim is too long because that is 5 beats. However, I suppose you could just halve the values, i.e. a crotchet tied to a dotted crotchet. Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 12:12

5 8ths in a single note without a slur would be a double dotted half note triplet.

Half note triplet= 4/3, ×1.5 for the first dot = 2 the value of a half note, ×1.25 for the second dot = 2.5 or the value of 5 8th notes.

  • The second dot increases the duration of a dotted note by a factor of 7/6 (approximately equals 1.167) , not 1.25 (equals 5/4). A double dotted half note is 3.5 quarter notes, multiply by 2/3 to get the duration of the triplet version, and you get 7/3 or 2⅓, not 2.5.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 14 at 11:51
  • I see, a double dotted is a single operation x1.75. I was under the impression each dot was a subsequent operation applied to the new duration. It appears the musescore devs were also under this impression and I trusted this result drive.google.com/file/d/1E74seCG56p9_b4uxjUqVxXisuxsry2Fr/… Thanks for the clarification.
    – Steve
    Commented Mar 15 at 5:07
  • Well you could definite the second dot as a subsequent operation applied to the singly dotted note, but it's a bit complex. The simplest definition is "each subsequent dot increases the duration by half the amount added by the previous dot." It's easier to think of if you consider the dotted note as the first of a pair. With no dots, the duration ratio is 1:1; as you add dots to the first, the duration of the second is always halved, so subsequent ratios are 3:1, 7:1, 15:1, 31:1, etc., though triply dotted notes are rare and I suspect quadruply dotted notes are nonexistent.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 16 at 15:14
  • Your answer (and the thinking that it inspired me to do about the mathematics of dots) did inspire me, however, to work out that it is in fact possible to represent that duration with dots and triplets: music.stackexchange.com/a/135265/2257
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 16 at 15:24
  • Two comments back should say "you could define..." rather than "definite." It looks as though the musescore video shows you applying the triplet to the first two beats of the 5/4 measure only. Then the dotted half takes up that time and you tie it to an eighth note that isn't inside the triplet. Then you do the same starting in the middle of the third beat. So you end up with two triplet half notes that together take up four beats of the measure, and two regular eighth notes that together take up one beat.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 16 at 16:18

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