Deconstructing the Rhythm Dot – The Mathematics of Dotted Notes

Updated on  August 9, 2018 to add an addendum on tupletting pairs of tied notes.

I recently needed to figure out ways to represent dotted notes so they would appear without a dot, and in the process, I found a number of ways to break down dotted notes into smaller notes. You may never need to do what I had to do, but someday one of these techniques may turn out to be useful.

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Sibelius : Copy Music with Alternating Meters into a New Location of your Score

Q: I am working on a piece with a lot of meter changes. I don’t know how I can repeat or make copies of those changes. There is a 4 bar pattern with meter changes as 4/4, 3/4, 4/4, (4/4). e.g. the 2nd bar of the pattern is always 3/4. However, when I copy and paste the 4 bars, the meter change isn’t copied. And, when I insert 3/4 and 4/4, the rebarring creates unwanted rests and destroys the pattern! How can I solve this problem?

A: On Mac, if you hold down the Command key when you make a selection, (use the Command key to select one bar, then hold down the Shift key to extend your selection) the selection area will be Purple, not Blue:

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Create a Tuplet of Any Ratio in Sibelius

Q: How can I get Sibelius to create 16th septuplets in a bar of  6/8 without the duration dots?


A: It’s a great question. By default, if you select a 16th note or rest on the downbeat in 6/8 time and create a default septuplet (CNTRL-7 Windows or CMND-7 Mac), you end up with an extra 8th rest:


This is because Sibelius is interpreting the default septuplet request as 7 sixteenths in the space of 4 sixteenths (2 eighths). However, for the above case, it should actually be 7 sixteenths in the space of 6 sixteenths.

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Sibelius Rhythmic & Slash Notation tweaks

Q: IMO, Sibelius’ slash noteheads (type 4, ‘beat with stem’) are too long (2 spaces high vs.1 space in Finale’s), and too thick, making rhythms difficult to read. Hard to believe that Sibelius lacks something as simple as a short slash notehead. Do these smaller noteheads exist in Sibelius, or is there a way to create them? And if so, how?

A: Excellent question. Slashes and Rhythmic Notation are commonly used for comping guitar, bass and drums in jazz charts.

  • Stemless slashes are frequently used to indicate improvised chording or comping where no specificity is required. These slashes simply indicate “time” in the current meter (In 4/4 time, 4 slashes in a measure, for example).
  • Rhythmic Notation is used to indicate a specific rhythmic figure. Regular pitches are replaced with slash note heads attached to note stems in the center of the staff

There are several ways you can change the look of the default slash and rhythmic notation in Sibelius. Let’s take a look:

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If 6 was 9 : Measured Tremolo & Tuplet Rhythms in Sibelius

Measured tremolo is a specific repetition of notes per beat measured exactly in a given tempo. It’s a type of notation shorthand which takes up less space than writing all the notes out, commonly found in published classical works.

It’s common practice to write out the full notation of the first beat or bar of a measured tremolo passage to avoid confusion:


In her book “Behind Bars”, Elaine Gould also recommends adding the label “non trem.” to the first note value of the abbreviation.

You can apply these in either duple or triple meter, with the added benefit that Sibelius plays these back as if they were written out in long form, (which will help you to check your work).

One case where the “how to” is not quite as obvious, however, are tuplets that are represented by measured tremolo. For instance, in 2/4 time, how would you create:


Let’s take a look…

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