Option for "whole note" = "fill the bar" for any meter

• Apr 7, 2022 - 20:20

In odd meters such as 5/8, if a voice sustains a note which should fill the whole bar, the only "standard" way to notate it is to tie two notes together, which looks very clumsy.

Screenshot 2022-04-07 at 21.46.01.png

A better practice is to simply use a whole note. This same practice applies to any odd meter. If a note needs to fill a bar, regardless of the meter, a whole note can be used. We are used to seeing this already for whole rests, so the meaning for musicians reading the music is obvious.

Currently this can be done using workarounds in MuseScore, with the following tricks: changing the note head manually and hiding the stem. This works in all cases except when the whole notes need to be tied to the following measure. In that case, fortunately MuseScore allows tying over rests, so in 5/8 a half note can be entered, changed to a whole note head with hidden stem, then the 8th rest can be made invisible, and the note can be tied across the hidden rest.

Screenshot 2022-04-07 at 21.18.59.png

There is a price to pay for these workarounds:
(1) layout problems - when these hacks are implemented, the layout can behave oddly
(2) MIDI export problems - notes tied over rests are rendered with incorrect lengths (or you could say they are the "correct" lengths since they reflect the actual notation, which has been fiddled with for visual reasons).
(3) it's time consuming to change everything manually.

The software could obviously do this for us. A simple Style switch could turn on a "whole notes fill the measure regardless of meter" option. Then in 5/8, we can just enter a whole note, and MuseScore will treat it with the desired value according to the meter (the same way default whole rests work).


Is that "standard" as you say? I have never seen it, but perhaps I have lived a too-sheltered life. Can you cite a reference or example published score that demonstrates the usage?

Sorry, but seeing a whole note in a 5/8 measure makes no sense to me. Why not use proper notation to begin with? What is wrong with a half tied to an 8th?

Not really a Feature Request, more of an I have an idea to augment current music notation. Anyway, whether it makes sense to most people or not, there is a more elegant (IMHO) workaround. Convert the whole-bar 5/8 rest to an octuplet and replace it with a semibreve. I admit i was skeptical but it sort of looks OK actually.

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In reply to by underquark

underquark, you are a genius! Your solution simply hadn't occurred to me. When I try this though, I'm left with a bracket ⌜8⌝ above the note. How were you able to do it without that result?
[EDIT: I think I got it - Directly after converting the rest, I have to go to the inspector and select "None" for the number and bracket.]

In reply to by underquark

underquark, your solution also clearly demonstrates that there is a simple way MuseScore could handle this internally. And it works in any meter, and gives correct MIDI output. Brilliant!

To reframe my Feature Request:
I'd like a Style switch which, when checked, allows a whole note to fill an entire measure (and only that measure) in any meter, exactly the same way that a measure rest fills an entire measure in any meter. underquark has shown that MuseScore can do this by treating the whole note as a collapsed octuplet with no display of either a bracket or a number.

In reply to by neo-barock

The slight difference here is that a whole rest doesn't fill an entire measure in any meter.
Just try it out: Go into note input mode in your 5/8 score, select the "whole" duration and enter a rest.
Now repeat the same steps on a 3/2 score.

A measure rest isn't a whole rest, it's a different defined and standard musical entity which to some confusion uses the same visual symbol as a whole rest, but is aligned centered within a measure instead.

In reply to by jeetee

That's a valid point and I was wondering...
The OP wrote:
A better practice is to simply use a whole note. This same practice applies to any odd meter. If a note needs to fill a bar, regardless of the meter, a whole note can be used.

OK, so if a whole note is used to "fill the bar for any meter", should it be centered within the measure - like a full measure rest?
Because there is a difference between a full measure rest and a whole rest.
The handbook states: "A whole rest, centered within a measure is used to indicate that an entire measure (or a voice within a measure) is silent, regardless of time signature.
Compare each time signature and each staff's content:
So, should the "bar fill" whole note be centered to distinguish it from a "real" whole note (4 beats) used with other notes to fill a bar?

In reply to by frfancha

I agree. The first consideration on whether to spend time thinking how this might be implemented natively in Musescore is, as I asked in the first reply, to find out if this usage exists outside of the OP's imagination. In the meantime workarounds exist that give the desired look and sound - however confusing it will look to the poor player presented with it

In reply to by Pentatonus

Rather we can say there is no need for stems and dots there. The whole note obviously looks more uniform, being tied between 3 measures, where nobody needs to count the 3/4 bar there with notes sustaining in the bass. You just see they are sustaining, and move on. Using the whole note is an option in such cases, for convenience.

In reply to by jeetee

I mean a measure rest (obviously?) Sorry I didn't call it by its proper name.

The concept is the same as the "measure rest" which is visually identical to the "whole rest". This is a "measure note" which is visually identical with a "whole note".

If you had also worked your whole life almost exclusively with odd meters like 5/8, 11/8, 15/16, etc. in which the only way to "properly" write a voice sounding through a measure is with a horrible mass of notes and ties, you would also welcome this clean and totally obvious alternative.

In reply to by neo-barock

I know I'm late to respond (wheh, this topic exploded and not always in the nice and friendly way..) but for me at least I was not as much debating the usefulness of a full measure note as much as the use of the whole note symbol for it.

Because using the whole notehead symbol for a full measure note would lead to heaps of confusion with many musicians. The reason for that confusion is that there would be no way to distinguish this new note with the way more common existing whole note.
Especially when taking into account existing (though low-occurrence) music which allows showing note durations across measure boundaries.

This type of confusion does not arise with the whole rest vs measure rest symbol. In part because of the alignment difference, but also because usually when you encounter nothing in a measure (at the start of it) the natural interpretation is silence; which exactly matches the intended effect.

Yes, part of the confusion can be alleviated if you see a note following it, but there confusion can as easily arise if that following note just so happens to be cross-staff notated..

Again, I'm not contesting the usefulness of a full measure note per se; but I believe using the existing whole note symbol without any visual clue on the difference of meaning is bound to lead to confusion. So a different symbol seems more sensible to me.
And to that respect I don't think MuseScore should add functionality for such a symbol if it isn't made part of the SMuFL standard first.

I'm also glad to read that using the tuplet approach you'll have a somewhat usable workaround to get the end result you currently desire.

In reply to by jeetee

I don't see any need for a new symbol. Whole notes don't appear in 5/8, so if one is written, it must have a special meaning, and if it's explained why the notes are there, then it's clear. A meter like 5/4 doesn't really need a whole-measure note, because its larger subdivisions make the notation less cluttered already. The utility of the whole-measure note is especially useful for cases where notes having flags and dots have to be tied to fill a measure. That "standard" notation is a horribly ugly cluttered mess. That's unnecessary. This alternative is for those cases. It wouldn't make sense in every case to use it. Whenever clarity is needed for some other reason, it wouldn't be used. In ensembles it might not be a good choice, as Marc pointed out. In keyboard music, or any solo music, it's a different situation. In any case, I doubt there is no need for a new symbol, though it might be interesting to see what that should be.

In reply to by neo-barock

The reason it needs a new symbol imho is because a whole note in less-than-1/1-measures already is a possible and valid thing in standard notation with a different meaning.
It, like in your proposal, prevents the need for a tied note, but remains a full whole note duration; "eating" into the next measure.

In reply to by jeetee

You have a point, since rhythmic notation across the bar is an actual thing. But as far as I know, that type of notation doesn't get used much any more, and when it does get used, it also requires explanation. Dotted notes "eating" across the barline perhaps comes up more often, since it appears in many baroque scores, but are modern composers using it? I reckon some are, but not many. If an explanation is required in either case, then there won't be any confusion once someone reads the instructions. I seriously doubt anyone would be in some dire need of mixing both approaches (since that wouldn't be possible).

The measure-rest doesn't need a different symbol; it uses the same symbol as a whole rest. By that same logic, a measure-note doesn't need a new symbol, it should use a whole note. Yes, the rest has centred placement, and that makes sense a measure-rest but doesn't make sense for a measure-note (since notes are obviously positioned at their rhythmic onset, whereas rest positioning is more flexible).

In reply to by neo-barock

But it is precisely that alignment that makes it clearly and unambiguously a different thing. No such advantages when you'd reuse the whole note symbol at the exact same positioning (due to beat-correctness) and layout rules for a different meaning.

In reply to by jeetee

Right, your point is taken. I still think with explanation, using a whole note doesn't present a problem. I also don't see a conflict with across-the-bar notation, since as I said that technique requires explanation itself and also doesn't need to be mixed with this approach.

In reply to by neo-barock

I mean a measure rest (obviously?) Sorry I didn't call it by its proper name.

I don't think so, re-read yourself:

we can just enter a whole note, and MuseScore will treat it with the desired value according to the meter (the same way default whole rests work)

In reply to by neo-barock

Thank you for the Aaron Andrew Hunt examples. It certainly makes the scores look neater, but I think the first bar of the first piece in Book 2 shows the potential difficulty of the notation. Does that whole note fill the bar or does it just last for 4 beats?

AAH Prelude in C Maj.jpg

Are there other examples out there or is this a one-off self-published example - i.e. a single composer defining his own "shorthand"? If it can be shown to be an established, albeit rare usage then perhaps "whole note fills the bar" could be implemented somehow. There would need to be some way of telling Musescore that this whole note is 4 beats long but that whole note fills the bar.

In reply to by SteveBlower

I gave another example, please see above.

As for that the whole note in that first bar, does it really need an explanation? I think not. It's obviously standard notation, since the whole note is followed by a quarter note, and it's obviously a single voice. If there were nothing else in the measure, then the whole note would fill the bar. If someone doesn't want to accept the concept, then they might be confused, but honestly, it's a very simple idea, and all it takes is a simple note to explain how it's used and why, and once someone understands that, it's not a problem.

In reply to by neo-barock

The meaning of that whole note plus quarter note would be obvious - except that the Forward included with the score states "To simplify the notation of rhythmic values of 5 and 7, when a duration fills an entire measure, a whole note is used". That is what puts doubt in my mind when seeing a whole note together with another note in the same bar.

The concept seems a nice idea but perhaps a better one would be to use a separate symbol for a note that fills the bar rather than overworking the whole note. But that is beside the point. Musescore should reflect usage, not invent it.

In reply to by underquark

underquark wrote >> Not really a Feature Request, more of an I have an idea to augment current music notation.

I like the concept of a "full measure note" as a parallel to a "full measure rest," depicted with the distinctive center alignment.

If this hasn't even been done I hope the notational language is alive enough to evolve that such a critter could emerge from the water. Of course, there would need to be some agreement with regard to MusicXML.

underquark wrote >> I admit i was skeptical but it sort of looks OK actually.

Initially I was skeptical too. But when I see only one note in the measure and no rests (particularly in an odd meter) it makes immediate sense that it fills the entire measure. And provides a elegant solution for meters where a note that lasts the full measure involves tying notes (for the scorist) and mental arithmetic (for the reader).

May the language evolve. The top dictionaries add new words every year ...

It's certainly possible such an option could be implemented. The likelihood is more or less directly proportional to the percentage of actual publishers known to be using this notation. So, the more such examples that are shown, the higher the chances.

In reply to by neo-barock

To me the more general issue is, if no publisher does this, it means no musicians have ever seen it, so you risk confusing the heck out of them and you greatly increase likelihood of errors, plus you waste time in rehearsal if it's an ensemble piece. So, I'd strongly recommend against this particular experimental notation if no publisher uses is. For music you expect anyone else to have to read, it's going to make things worse rather than better, and for music you don't expect anyone to read (intended for computer playback only), then there is also nothing to be gained from it in terms of de-cluttering.

On the other hand, for experimental notations that are in at least semi-common use, you can reasonably expect that musicians accustomed to playing that type of music will have seen it before, so these considerations don't apply.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Hm, well nobody said "no publisher does this". I gave you examples of actual published music using this notation, so ... Bereitkopf doesn't use it. So what? Composers decide how their own music is to be written, and they are the ones who innovate, not the publishers. So frankly, do what you like with your own music, but spare me your advice, which I certainly did not ask for and which doesn't interest me in the least.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

That would be an overreaction. You're obviously an expert MuseScore programmer, your replies are normally very helpful, and I usually appreciate them. However, telling a composer how he should write his own music when he didn't ask you for your opinion is frankly out of line. I don't tell you how to write your music. Don't tell me how to write mine. Music notation is as personal as the music, so please just respect that.

In reply to by neo-barock

I'm not telling you anything about what to do. I am simply volunteering my time to help people here in the forums. I have no way of knowing anyone's background, so my freely-offered advice is usually general. Often, people simply don't understand the rules of notation, or the practical realities of putting together live performances. So I offer suggestions intended to cover a broad range of users and situations. Experts reading my advice are then free to ignore this generously offered advice - and being experts, they also understand the advice really is sound in general even if they also feel it doesn't apply to their own unique situation. The expert goes on writing as they like, but the beginner reading the discussion is helped. No one loses, no harm done whatsoever, and nothing remotely "out of line" about it.

Anyhow, the relevance here is in determining how to prioritize the request to add the feature. Notations that are in common use and are generally recommended get higher priority than notations not in common use and generally recommended against. But, workarounds often exist to allow the uncommon / not recommended use. Where they don't, often, the best course of action is to add a feature to make workarounds like that - and other similar workarounds for other similar uncommon / not recommended notations - feasible. As opposed to adding separate features for each individual uncommon / not recommended notation.

With that in mind, instead of a very specific "make whole note last a measure" function that would be used by only a tiny handful of people, a more interesting proposal. might be, to have a general-purpose way of specifying an actual duration for any note. This could help with other special situations, so more people win.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks Marc. Perhaps it was I who was overreacting. No hard feelings, of course. I see your point, and I agree that a more general proposal makes sense. You are extremely generous and knowledgeable, and I appreciate all you do for this wonderful software and for its community of users. Thank you again.

In reply to by neo-barock

Thanks for the comments, and I also appreciate what you've contributed here with your suggestions! No hard feelings here either, let's just keep moving forward!

BTW, I assume you've seen the posts about the engraving improvements coming in MuseScore 4. I think the post in the Announcements forum shows only what's already in builds, there's more coming soon, really great stuff!

On the original subject, regarding experimental notations - there is perhaps a little more momentum behind the idea of the "star dot" that was really intended for another purpose - to simplify rhythms like quarter tied to sixteenth - but would also allow quintuple meters to be represented with a single note (eg, whole note star dot lasts five beats in 5/4). I will confess to having pooh-poohed that idea too, but it is growing on me and I acknowledge is clearly building some support in the music community at large.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

The star-dot is certainly related to this. I can't personally get behind that one on a visual level (I think it looks awful), though I sympathise with the need for something like that. It reminds me that the double-dotted half note fills a bar of 7/8, but it looks like a mistake. All these clumsy notations look terrible, except for the whole note, which looks perfect (to me). I understand it doesn't float everyone's boat, and even if the concept seems right, maybe a new symbol could be useful. Personally I'll keep using whole notes.

Looking forward very much to MuseScore 4. I posted this at this point partly because I was becoming concerned that at some point my workaround would break. Now I have a better way of doing it, and I'll try to write a plugin for the tuplet approach. (I was able to write an Applescript to do half of it, but it can't get rid of the bracket and number using that.)

In reply to by neo-barock

It is worth repeating that the two examples are self-published. They can do whatever they want whether it is proper notation or not. Including leaving voice 2 rests in place at the beginning of the piece above. No publisher I know f would do that. What other inaccuracies are there?

It may be true that rules of notation can eventually follow standard practice. Yet I'm trying to think of other examples like this.

When is a half note not a half note? I can't think of an example.
The treble clef sign can have a small 8 above or below to signify and octave. Maybe a whole note could have a little number to show how many beats it gets. There needs to be something so folks can understand what is going on. Otherwise, just write things out and stop relying on shortcuts.

If the choice is between what is "elegant" and what is "clear", If vote for clear.

In reply to by bobjp

bobjp, I just picked opened my Könneman edition of Bach's miscellaneous keyboard works (Einzelstücke I), and opened randomly to the Gigue of BWV818a, in which the opening pickup shows 3 rests for 3 voices. Does this qualify in your universe as being a real instance of the same logic, by a "real" publisher? You're obviously completely convinced of your opinion, but the funny thing is, no matter how forcefully you assert that opinion, it remains wrong. In the example above, which is indeed keyboard music as you point out, the rests were written in by the composer, to show that the middle voice is waiting to enter, which I believe qualifies as a "purpose", which means, again, you are simply wrong. It's true that in many scores, you'll find such rests omitted (even in fugues, when they absolutely should not be omitted), but so what? In fugues, the rests absolutely must be there. But some editions omit them even then. Others don't. It may be an option to write the rests in or not to write them, and here the composer chose to write them. So if someone says that's wrong, that person is the one who is wrong.

In reply to by neo-barock

OK. Let's consider you two examples above. They are self published within the last two years.

  1. Sure, as the composer, he gets to notate stuff any way he wants. Just as you can use a whole note to take up a a 5/4 measure. I don't care. But that doesn't make him right. It only makes it the way he did it.

  2. The only reason the voice 3 rests are in the first few measures in his music is because that's the way notation software works. Period.

A better example for your argument is the little fugue in G minor. Some versions show it with rests until the second voice comes in an some do not. But you have to ask yourself if the versions that do not show the rests are somehow confusing? I think not.

But guess what. I get to decide ( based on actual music school training) what is right for me. You do not. Sorry.

Am I open to things becoming different? Absolutely. But there needs to be a good reason. Not that someone decided to do it that way because it looked good.

In reply to by bobjp

You get to decide what's right for you, and the composer gets to decide what's right for him. You admit that rests can be written in or not. So you admit that you were wrong before. You even give an additional example showing that what you said before about rests was wrong. But you still claim to know better than the composer why rests are written in his music. On that point you remain wrong. It is not "because that's the way notation software works". It's because the composer wanted them there. I know that for a fact, because I know the composer, quite well. Do you still want to claim that you know better?

In reply to by neo-barock

Leaving those apparently superfluous rests in is certainly not forbidden, nor is something notation software doesn't allow for (it does, as seen in that example), but equally certainly it is non-standard.
One reason for them I can think of is to have all voice 1 notes stem up, but there are other ways to achieve that, which maybe the composer wasn't aware of?

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

No. If you want to understand how rests are handled in contrapuntal music, I encourage you all to take a look at more contrapuntal scores. For modern examples, see the music of Stéphane Delplace, which is published by Delatour. It's brilliant music. He uses rests in exactly the same way. It's an entirely deliberate professional practice, with a long history of precedent (stemming from open score, e.g. The Art of Fugue).

In reply to by neo-barock

It is fascinating to me how important it is to you that I am wrong. I've lost count of how many times you have used that word.
All I said was that measures of rest in a particular voice, at the beginning of a keyboard piece, serve no purpose. That means that if they are not there, it makes no difference to the player. I don't think I said the composer was wrong. Just that they don't need to be there. If your friend wants to put them in, great. I have nothing to admit. Accept that I put the "That's the way notation software works" statement in just to see what you would say. Sorry. We both know that those rest don't have to be there to create the parts.

I stand by my original statement. That certainly doesn't mean that I am right. You and I simply view things differently. You think the rests at the beginning need to be there to make things more clear. Great. Do it. I think they clutter things up. So what. You think that a whole note should be able to take up an entire measure no matter the time signature. Great. Do it. I think that is confusing.
I'm not sure either view is right or wrong. Just different.
And this has gone on way too long. So unless you have something meaningful to say, other than I'm "wrong", I'd like to bow out.

In reply to by bobjp

When you claim to state facts, but your statements are simply false, then you shouldn't be surprised to be told you are wrong. And when you keep repeating false claims, you shouldn't be surprised to be repeatedly told you are wrong. I correct false statements because I care about the truth.

In reply to by neo-barock

Holy Cow, oh arbiter of truth. I stated that I believe that the rests before the second entrance of the theme in the G minor Fugue aren't necessary. That's my view. It is neither fact nor fiction. It isn't true or false. You can't prove it either way. Oh, I am sure you will find some quote that backs you up. It makes little difference to me. I will continue to not use them in that situation. Gasp! I know. Shocking isn't it. How dare I. So when you find said quote and try to shine the torch of truth on me, at least think about shinning it on yourself. Find an instance where a whole note is other than....what we all know a whole note to be.
Please, our views aren't worth all this drama. Except that now you will say that I don't value the truth. Who's truth, your's or mine? Really?
On second thought, regardless of what ridiculous thing you say next, I'm really out of this thread.

In reply to by bobjp

I called you out on your false claims and corrected you. Anyone who reads through your remarks and my response to them can see that. A proper response from you would have been "I stand corrected", but alas, you reply with yet more blathering. I for one am glad to hear you are "out of this thread".

In reply to by neo-barock

Sorry, but I must respond. Because I have been wrong.

I thought that you might be able to have adult discourse with someone who doesn't agree with you.
I was wrong.

I thought that you might see that you have insulted in one way or another almost everyone in this thread.
I was wrong.

I thought that you might demonstrate an understanding of the concept of truth as being much deeper than simply being right.
I was wrong.

I hope that you will see the unmitigated gall it takes for you to think that you can decide what my response to you should be.
I'm sure you will prove me wrong.

And finally, I am certain that you won't be able to resist some school yard insult as a comeback.
Bet you can't prove me wrong. Blather away.

I understand you want MuseScore to reflect standard practices, but I didn't think you all would be against a more progressive option. MuseScore has options for other kinds of notation that aren't in widespread use. In any case, I'm very glad that someone has shown me a better way to arrive at the desired result. Apart from that it seems the response is unanimously against the idea, so in the interest of avoiding any further waste of time, please consider my request withdrawn.

Easier way to achive whole notes in 5/8 measures is to make those measures irregular (having them loose 1/8). That avoids the need to making rests invisble and transports much easier into parts. Better layout too and no MIDI issues either.
Downside: doesn't work if other parts don't have these at the same measures

In reply to by sammik

That is an interesting and useful example. Is there any textual explanation of this usage in the score or is it just assumed that the players will understand what is meant?

The symbol exists as an alternative form of breve or double whole note. At least this is a less often encountered symbol than the originally proposed whole note. However, it seems to me that this would still suffer from potential ambiguity when there is more than one voice on a stave and the measure has a longer duration than a double whole note (for example in that 9/4 bar). Perhaps there are no such cases in the score. As I said, it is interesting to see an example "in the wild".

In reply to by SteveBlower

As far, as I remember, there were no textual explanation in parts.
I think, it is so obvoius, that no text is needed.
You can see fullscore at publishers web. There are many different measure durations (6/4, 7/4, 9/4, 11/4)

But other instrumentation (string quartet) has it written conventional way.

I pesonally like first one (Alt Brevis) much more, but it depends on personal taste.

In reply to by sammik

Part wrote a pretty dull cello part there.

In this case the itnention is fairly obvious but I have suspicions that in other less monotonous contexts (actually there are two notes, so perhaps bitonous might be a better word) there is still the possibility of confusion whether the intention is a full bar or just 8 beats. The earlier discussion suggested that it would be better to use a dedicated new notation rather than "borrowing" a symbol that already has an accepted and different meaning. I wonder if other examples of this specific notation can be found or perhaps examples of alternative ways of notating it by other composers/publishers.

I can see the benefits of this type of notation, but before suggesting implementing something in MuseScore I think it is important to get an understanding of what is established (albeit rare) practice in published works. Is there a convention? Are there multiple conventions? In the meantime, I think that that particular example could be notated in MuseScore currently using some sneaky tricks.

In reply to by SteveBlower

The composers already mentioned use an augmentation dot in situations where the notated value would not fill the needed space. For example, in a meter like 25/16, where a measure is subdivided as 5 beats of five 16th notes each, a dotted quarter is used fill one beat of 5 16th notes. So if you wanted to use the same logic, to fill a measure of 9/4, a dotted breve might be used.

Beyond the idea of the whole note filling any length measure, the logic behind what values to use for this style of notation is similar to the logic for figuring out which rhythmic value to use for a given tuplet (which BTW MuseScore doesn't always get right).

Obviously, this isn't standardised. In that way it's similar to microtonal notation. As a feature request for MuseScore, probably the most practical idea I've heard so far is to allow users to define rhythmic values for given notes. So in the above example of 25/16, a user could enter a dotted quarter, click on the note inspector, and select an option to make that note span 5 16th notes, or alternatively the inspector for the dot to span 1 16th. Anyway, having the option to define what value a given rhythmic notation represents, and ideally a way to store them and recall them easily. This was first suggested by someone else (I couldn't find the reference, sorry), and I think it's a stellar idea.

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