Which of these notations is preferred?

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  • For the second bar - neither.
    – Tim
    Feb 1 '20 at 19:29
  • 1
    Given that 6/8 typically only has two beats, I'm not convinced, that the intra-beat shift qualifies as syncopation. In any case the duplet should receive a horizontal bracket for clarity of intention.
    – guidot
    Feb 1 '20 at 19:53

Various contributors to this thread have suggested diverse solutions to this notation problem: enter image description here

  1. This is a bit pedantic, but it's sometimes seen. An experienced sight-reader should have no problem with this.
  2. This is the closest to a 'standard' notation, and the most usual one. Leonard Bernstein uses this in the Prologue from "West Side Story". Orchestras never have a problem reading it.
  3. This makes the intention a bit clearer. Richard Strauss often uses this. E.g. in "Die Frau ohne Schatten": enter image description here
  4. One contributor claims this this is the 'theoretically correct' solution. I've never seen this in practice.
  5. This is messy and obscures the fact that both notes are the same. They will probably be played differently. Hardest to read.
  6. This is only a solution if the piece is more in 2/4 than 6/8. Notating a whole piece in 2/4 with triplets just to avoid a few duplets is an unnecessary complication.

Your second example is absolutely the standard way to write this. It's perfectly clear. The first example is mathematically correct, but nonstandard and potentially confusing.

  • 1
    A good example of this notation is the Prologue from Bernstein's "West Side Story".
    – PiedPiper
    Feb 1 '20 at 22:52
  • In music literature I've never seen other notation than the duplet (tuplets?) notation. Feb 2 '20 at 11:23

The second way (but probably with a bracket as well as the number) is traditional. The first is gaining popularity. Both are acceptable.

A tuplet can usually be expressed as a whole-number ratio 'x in the time of y' where x is greater than y. I've heard the opinion that our example should be notated as duplet quarters, '2 in the time of 1½'. Presumably because they think the 'more in the time of less' thing is a 'rule'. I think not. This is an exception!


I don't like either one of these. Especially if I expect someone to sightread it. One possibility that would probably be understood at sight would be to use a dotted eighth followed by a sixteenth tied to an eighth. (I cannot seem to paste graphics yet.)

The real problem is that the pulse has changed from 2 beats to measure to 4 beats (for this measure). A measure of 6/8 implies that the next level from is a triple. It (6/8) signifies that the basic pulse is two triples. There's no nice division into fourths. The first second measure is awkward in that the dotted eighths do not represent the "normal" second level beat structure. The second measure could be done as Rosie notes; that's probably best though it does make the two halves of the measure have different secondary pulses. One could solve the problem by rewriting the measure as 2/4 or 4/4 (or 12/16) but any irregular change in time signature causes sight reading (aka rehearsal) delays.

  • Triplets aren't what make up 6/8 time. There are two groups of three quavers, but none of them are triplets. Maybe that's the dv?
    – Tim
    Feb 2 '20 at 7:54
  • 1
    A sixteenth tied to an eight obscures the fact that the two notes have the same value. They are liable to be played differently.
    – PiedPiper
    Feb 2 '20 at 9:05

Let's start fresh and use a 2/4 time signature instead of 6/8. Now we'll have triplets in the first beat of the first measure, followed by a quarter note. Then the second measure will have two eighth notes followed by a quarter note.

I think this will give you more flexibility to play with different subdivisions and patterns as things progress.

Also, this will make it easier for people to sightread -- which was an understandable concern, brought up in one of the answers.

After all, a 6/8 meter is mainly a convenience when you are dealing with a large number of triplets. But there's no objective need to notate in 6/8.

  • 1
    If this was just these two bars then it could be notated in 2/4, but for longer passages that would be impractical.
    – PiedPiper
    Feb 2 '20 at 8:47
  • @PiedPiper How so? What's the difficulty writing triplets? Is it a software issue? I have very little experience using music notation software. Feb 2 '20 at 8:48
  • 1
    There is no difficulty in writing triplets, but if a piece is 99% in 6/8 with 1% duplets then it's much easier to read if it's properly notated in 6/8.
    – PiedPiper
    Feb 2 '20 at 9:10

AN alternative is as in your second example, but with two crotchets (quarter-notes) instead of quavers (eighth-notes). This accords with the convention that in an irregular group the notated duration is greater than the actual duration.

  • 1
    I have seen #1 and #2, but I've never seen this. Feb 1 '20 at 19:36
  • While this might be theoretically correct, it would be very unusual to see it in practice. #2 is generally used (and occasionally #1)
    – PiedPiper
    Feb 1 '20 at 23:02
  • Duplets, like triplets, will be written with the same value notes as normal. No need to change from quavers to crotchets.
    – Tim
    Feb 2 '20 at 7:57
  • @Tim What do you mean by "normal"? There is no "changing from quavers": there were no quavers in the first place.
    – Rosie F
    Feb 2 '20 at 8:06
  • Your answer mentions two crotshets instead of quavers (as in original bar). There would be no need to change those quavers into crotchets to write it out as duplets. Simply leave as two quavers with a bracketed '2' over. - almost as example #2.
    – Tim
    Feb 2 '20 at 8:13

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