Writing Rests

• Apr 11, 2020 - 08:59

Hi Everyone,

I hope everyone is weathering this present crisis as best they can.

Rests. I know that there are a number of rules on how to use rests in a composition and I have been reading up on them. When MuseScore inputs the rests as the music is being entered, are they automatically correctly written, i.e. in terms of not extending over the beat and so forth, or is that something that needs to adjusted on a case-by-case basis? I haven't gone over my compositions in any detail yet, so I just want to know what the default is. If MuseScore does not correct for rest placement automatically, is there software that can accomplish this? I intend to go through all the rests in my compositions using the guides I've found online, but I was wondering if there was some way of double-checking my work.

As always, thanks for any help on this. I know that there are various opinions on how to handle rests, but I guess I'm trying to understand the most commonly used approach. I have looked at the handbook and gone through older posts, so if this has been discussed before I would appreciate being directed to those discussions. There may also be options in the software that I've overlooked.



Not only are they correctly automatically entered, but they are always so by MuseScore.
The way of working of MuseScore is that your score is always "complete".
So when you start from an empty score, it is not really empty, it is already filled in by the correct rests.
These rests are "automatically" overwritten by notes when you enter your music.
Same when you add/insert measures.
Bottom line, answer to your question "something that needs to adjusted on a case-by-case basis" is no nay never.

To be clear: MuseScore expects you to enter your rests left to right just like you enter your notes. If you enter them - notes or rests - correctly, they will be displayed/printed correctly.

On the other hand, MuseScore will automatically fill your measure with rests as needed while you enter notes, to keep the length of measure correct, so ion some cases, you can skip entering the rests yourself. To me this rarely makes sense, it takes as much time to skip over these rests as to enter them correctly. But, it is indeed possible.

However, in simple meter like 4/4, it will generally do this according to standard rules of notation. In 4/4, actually, I'd say it's always correct/ 3/4 on the other hand is more subjective. In compound meter like 6/8, it definitely won't be correct, though. The total duration will add up as it should, but the specific breakdown into beats won't be correct. So it's always best to simply enter the rests yourself. Not go over them later, but get it right the first time. After all, you don't first enter your notes incorrectly then fix them later, do you? So why use that approach with rests?

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks Marc and everyone. As always, very helpful replies. I knew about the compound meter issue and it's one that comes up often on composition forums, so I am looking at that.

One other thing: there are a few instances where I did enter the incorrect rests. I conflated rests into a dotted rest, i.e. quarters and eighths into dotted quarters or quarters into dotted half rests. When I undo those dotted rests by highlighting them and unclicking the dot on the palette, MuseScore then converts back to the individual rests. Can I assume that the rests are now correct, i.e. the way they would have been originally and in the right order, or do I need to re-enter the notes?

Again, thanks for the prompt replies. As an amateur, I'm learning as I go along but I've been trying to read up on these issues and conform to accepted principles that would be clearest to performers.


In reply to by notescribe

When I undo those dotted rests by highlighting them and unclicking the dot on the palette, MuseScore then converts back to the individual rests. Can I assume that the rests are now correct

No. MuseScore then does exactly what you ask it to do, remove the dot from the rest, then fill the "gap" with a rest of matching duration. Nothing more.

In reply to by notescribe

It depends of what you call correct.
And your question "do I need to reenter the notes" is very strange.
Notes are like you have entered them.
If you have entered c d e and you want c d e then good, if you wanted c f e then you need to overwrite the d by f (or to move the d 3 steps up).
I don't really see the link with rests here.

In reply to by notescribe

How I would put it is this:

When you change the duration of any rest or note, MuseScore does everything it can to keep other notes from changing time position, and also to preserve the same measure duration. So if you have a note on beat three of a 4/4 measure, shortening a note or rest on beat 1 or 2 won't change that - the note on beat three will remain on beat three, and the measure will remain four beats long. So, if you shorted a dotted quarter rest to just a quarter rest, an eighth rest is added to keep everything where it belongs.

Whether changing that rest to a quarter rest was the right thing to do or not depends on the context, though. If it was on a beat, yes. If it was on an "and", you need to change it to an eighth, so the quarter rest starts on the next beat.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

First, the issue is if I undo something will that yield the same result as if I had entered it correctly in the first place. If I undo the dotted rests, will that result in the same sequence of rests that would have resulted if I had not used the dotted rest to begin with or should I re-enter the notes in the measure as if I were writing them for the first time. I was not sure if the algorithm worked both ways in generating rests. I assume from the replies that it does.

Second, Marc, my understanding is that dotted rests are used only in compound time and never in 3/4 and 4/4 time or permutations of those time signatures. If this is correct, then I can just undo any dotted rests in those common time signatures and they will revert to the correct sequence of rests and I only have to worry about correcting rests for the beats in compound time according to the best practices rules I've been studying. Correct?

Here is an example I found from another composer's arrangement on MuseScore. I assume the dotted half rest in measure 5 is not correct. It should be a half rest and quarter rest then the quarter note? Notice that it's in 4/4 time from measure 4.

Thanks! I appreciate your patience. And, again, thanks for everyone's replies.


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In reply to by notescribe

If I undo the dotted rests
That is not what you're doing. The undo command (ctrl/cmd-Z) does only that, undo the last action. By removing the dot you're not undoing the dotted rest, you're explicitly asking MuseScore to change the duration of the selected rest to be the duration without a dot.
Just like when you would turn that rest into a 1/16th rest by selecting that duration.

There is no "undo a dot" function.

In reply to by notescribe

This is a very good example to use. I will reiterate what we've said previously: if you change the duration of a rest, other things in the measure will stay in the same location if at all possible. So, if you select that dotted half rest and turn it into a plain half rest (either by removing the dot, or changing the duration to half), a quarter rest will be inserted afterward, so the note on beat 4 remains right there. So, that much is good.

But now, imagine this measure were the other way around - a quarter note on 1, followed by a dotted half rest on 2. Now, turning that dotted half rest into an ordinary half rest - either by removing the dot, or changing the duration to half) will still result in a quarter rest being inserted afterward, which correctly keep the duration of the measure. But, that is not the correct thing for you to do. Now the measure will read quarter note, half rest, quarter rest. This is incorrect notation, it should read quarter note, quarter rest, half rest - a half rest has to start on beat 1 or 3, not on beat 2.

To be clear, it's not that MuseScore is doing something wrong - it's simply doing what you asked it to: turning a dotted half rest into a plain half rest. it's just that this is the wrong thing to ask. You should have asked to change it to a quarter rest. Then MuseScore would have filled the result gap by inserting a half rest afterward, and you'd have correct notation.

So, the bottom line is: enter the correct rests and you get the correct rests. Enter the wrong rests and MuseScore will happily give you the wrong rests.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thank you, Marc. This is exactly what I meant. It matters how you enter things but also how you re-enter them as well. And, of course, you're absolutely right about the program doing what you tell it to do, whether right or wrong. If I violate compositional rules on rests then I can't expect the program to bail me out. So just chalk all this up to my inexperience as a composer, but I hope it's made the issue a little clearer for others. Fortunately, there are only a couple of instances of incorrect rests in my scores, but those are a couple of instances too many. And that's not only because I want to be correct in terms of best practices but I want to be as clear as I can in my performance notation and directions.

Again, thanks very much for taking the time to walk me through this and thanks to everyone else for your comments.


In reply to by notescribe

Perhaps the following tool could be of use to you: regroup rhythms

BIG WARNING: As this tool rewrites rhythms, it effectively removes and re-adds notes/chords. This means that anything attached to your original notes (articulations/lyrics) may be removed by this tool!
The best moment to run it is just after entry of the notes/rests, before entering anything else.

In reply to by jeetee

I don't think that's true anymore (although I remember it was once upon a time). I just did a quick test and it worked fine for me.

I was thinking this tool had already been mentioned in this thread, but apparently not. Indeed, it can be useful in some cases to automatically correct notation of certain rhythms. But, it's not foolproof. While it fixes a lot, it misses things too, and in a few cases makes things worse. So you still end up needing to go over it yourself. But if you think you've got a lot of notation errors, chances are good you'll have fewer after running this tool, so it will probably make the job easier. Not just grouping of rests but also of notes.

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