Here is a summary of the most important rules about correct note values, grouping notes with beams, and the choice of rests.
The overall principle is to make the beats clear.
- Place longer notes on stronger beats.
- A new beam equals a new beat.
- Beam all the notes which belong to the same beat.
- Ties join beats together.
- Ties and beams don’t mix.
- Never beam across beats 2-3 in quadruple time.
- In compound time, never use an undotted note longer than one beat.
- In compound time, never beam in groups larger than one beat.
In the following examples, the position of each beat is difficult to see in the incorrect versions. 4/4 shows beaming in simple time. 6/4 is compound time.
In the correct versions, the beats are visible either because a note is tied to a new beat, or a new beamed group begins.
Avoid dotted rests in simple time, unless they are less than one beat.
Less than 1 beat: build the beat up one size rest at a time, from smaller to larger.
More than 1 beat: use rests equal to any number of whole beats, but do not place a long rest on a weak beat. (Strong beats are beat 1, and in quadruple time also beat 3).
The semibreve (whole) rest (which hangs from the 2nd line) is used for a whole bar in all time signatures. It is placed in the centre of the bar (other rests are placed on the beat they fall on).