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I am trying to find the best way to write this bongo rhythm. I know bongo is usually written on two lines only, or even on one line sometimes, but my bongos are tuned to G so I just use normal music notation paper. In the last beat of this bar I have provided two versions. Can someone please tell me if either are correct or if both are correct, and more importantly, if there is a better way to write this?

  • 1
    They're both quite readable, with the top one preferred by me. They're both clear in that not ony is the bar split into two halves, but four quarters, so clear.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 11:31
  • I find the lower version much clearer.
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 21:52
  • For your case I prefer top one. Marking the location of a half-step helps reading when things get complicated. Still, for a percussion I'd use a rest instead of a tie, or for an instrument visually I'd connect the notes with a single line above to mention they belong to the same beat. On the other hand, if the last two 32th were a single 16th, then I would use the bottom version. In this case it becomes a very common and readable pattern. Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 8:41
  • I prefer the top one because it's clearer where the beat is. But I'm not a percussionist (I'm a pianist) and it makes sense to use a rest as the percussionists are saying.
    – BobRodes
    Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 3:14

2 Answers 2


As Peter explained, ties are not used in hand percussion. I agree with his suggestion to use the rest because it would be easier to sight-read for most performers. Also, your stem directions need to be adjusted if you're concerned about "correct" stems. Here's what that would look like:

enter image description here

Note: StackX does not allow photos in comments, so that is why I posted my own "answer" instead of adding this onto Peter's answer.

  • I think this is an answer bringing something new +1 . I had the same thought yesterday. Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 14:28
  • ok thanks. Why is the stem at the beginning of the second beat a downward stem while the 1st stem of the 4th beat is an upward stem? They are both the same note?
    – user35708
    Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 18:27
  • @armani Good question. When multiple notes are beamed together, it follows the majority. Beat two is a fairly standard rhythm so it follows the high "G" with downward stem. Beat four is mostly treble "G"s plus the rest, so it follows their upward stems. If the rest did not have a stemlet and was not beamed, then the high "G" would have a downward stem. Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 8:59
  • Ok, but If you say majority rules then shouldnt the 1st one have upward stems since two are low G and only the 1st one a high G?
    – user35708
    Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 9:11
  • Trying to keep it simple. Here's more detail: Stem direction within beam groups is determined by the balance of notes within the beam that are above/below the middle line of the staff. If majority of notes are above, stems down. If majority are below, stems up. If the beam contains an equal number of notes either side of the middle, stem direction follows the stems of adjacent notes / beam groups. If they have the same stem direction, beam group matches them. If the adjacent notes have different stem directions, equally balanced beam groups follow the default stem direction. Commented Mar 25, 2020 at 14:18

Ties are not usually used in percussion notation because they are considered unnecessary, since the player doesn't sustain the tones like wind or string players. There are a few exceptions to this rule, like piano and vibraphone, but generally percussion notation just needs to indicate the beginning the notes.

So the second option is the better of those two, but I think the best option would be to remove the tie and replace the second 16th notes with a 16th rest. So the last beat would read 16th note, 16th note, 16th rest, and 2 32nd notes. The whole beat would still be beamed together, with the beam extending over the 16th rest.

  • I agree ... and also that a rest (the tied 16th note) is logical. (s. Nicks answer.) Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 14:26

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