Beaming 8ths in half note triplets

(This is likely as much a question of proper notation as it is about beaming, so my apologies if my thinking is a bit cloudy here!)

I wish to group these 8th-note triplets in groups of four 8ths, not three (ie, according to where I’ve placed the accents):

As the accents show (I hope), the real grouping here isn’t in 8th triplets, but half-note triplets:

. . . in which each half-note triplet is subdivided into four equal parts (ie, the 8ths).

However, I’m unable to get the beaming so that it groups the 8ths where these accents are:

. . . all I get is this:

So, my questions are:

  1. Am I incorrect in thinking that my 8ths should be beamed in groups of four 8ths?
  2. If I am correct in thinking that, what do I need to do to have Dorico beam accordingly? (I’ve tried all beaming options offered in Notation Options, with no effect.)

Thanks, in advance, for your help!

Yes. You are incorrect.

But Dorico will allow that beaming. beam
Just select the relevant notes and beam together (and you can hide the triplet numbers and brackets if you want to)

Thanks, Janus – I had no idea that one can manually create custom beaming!

However, my guess is that players would have an easier time reading it like this (even tho’ it seems - to me - to be a workaround):

But can you explain why/how I am incorrect here, please? My hunch is that notating the passage as half-note triplets would make for more difficult reading, but I’d also like to make the underlying half-note triplet grouping clear.

Thanks for your feedback.

(Later) Aha – that “beam together” feature easily does it:

I think you have answered your own question!

(though personally I think you will find most players will have no problem correctly reading your 1st version - triplets with displaced accents)


Thanks, Janus! :smiley:

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Yes, since you asked… please keep it as you had it originally!!

Thanks, Dan!
Is it solely a matter of ease of reading (many people not being that used to subdivided half note triplets), or is the musical logic (of notating subdivided half note triplets) just not correct?

It just looks wrong (because it is wrong)! The first is incredibly easy to read. The last one makes me scratch my head.


I would say that your final solution is not correct. If you use a “3” to indicate a triplet, then I ought to see 3 notes. I admit that in some cases one or two triplet members might show further subdivision, but still there should be a clear visual answer to “3 of what?” In fact your final example might pass muster (at least for experienced musicians) IF it didn’t begin the passage but followed one or more measures of half-note triplets. But as it stands, it looks puzzling and uncommunicative.

Thanks, Rinaldo! I agree that the last notation would be more easily understood were it preceded by non-subdivided half-note triplets. I also agree with Janus and Dan that the original notation is much easier to read (and would likely come out as intended). But I find that there’s something so elegant about notation that really expresses the underlying ratios. I have to say that I would probably scratch my head if I encountered a passage like this, but I’ve been spoiled – I have friends who are professional Cuban percussionists, for whom these rhythms and notations (and much more complex than these) are a walk in the park.


Just taking part in the poll!
Version 1: I would play as notated, stressing 1 ,2 ,3 ,4. (Would prefer seeing 12/8 by the way)
Version 2: I would play it as if I was playing sixteenth notes in 3/4 time. 2, 3, 4 I would not stress at all.

I prefer version 1 for ease, and because it remains intuitively 4/4(12/8).

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As a general tip about doing manual beam grouping in Dorico: I’d recommend using the “Split beam” menu option for when you know of multiple places where you want to break up beams, as you can Ctrl/Cmd-selection lots of notes in lots of beams, then split all those beams to the left of the selected notes at once with that option. “Beam together” works on a single beam group at a time.


I will add my custom key commands for all these, as I think they’re comfortable :
cmd-b for Beam together
alt-b for Break Beam
ctrl-alt-b for Split beam
ctrl-alt-cmd-b for reset beaming
Hope it helps!

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I am trying to think how the conductor would conduct this measure if other instruments are involved. If the conductor beats four to the bar, then the original eighth triplets with accents added might be easier. If the conductor has started beating triplet halves to the bar, then that might be the clearer version.

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How this rhythm is read by players, and conducted, depends a lot on the tempo, and on what the actual notes are. The same pattern is found in Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano Concerto, middle movement, in a very leisurely tempo. The triplets are not even marked as such (not even in the first bar). But the note grouping is made obvious by both the pattern of pitches and double-stems on every 4th note (right thumb) in the first 8 bars, while the triplet beaming is enough to make the note value clear.

At a fast enough tempo, the half-note triplet beamed in fours would be fine. But I’m guessing your tempo is between these two.

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As others have said, context is probably most important here. Personally, I would think either of the below examples would be “correct” regardless of genre:

I guess I’ll be an outlier here and say if this is Latin Jazz (you mention Cuban percussionists above), then I would tend to do it as the bottom example. That rhythm is instantly recognizable to me (and certainly would be to percussionists), but in the top example I’d have to count where the accents fall. It’s not much of a difference though and I would think either notation will be easily played by experienced musicians, so go with what makes the most sense contextually.


Thanks for the useful tip, Lillie!

Thanks for that reference, Mark . . .

Thanks, everyone, for taking the time to post your feedback on this topic – I appreciate it!

I’d play Devil’s advocate and say that version 3 is fine too, although I’d be tempted to notate it as 8th-note tremolo triplet minims.

All depends on whether you want to feel it in triplet quavers or something bigger. Your 4/4 meter suggests so, whereas if it was compound then the 3rd solution would make more sense.

Best not to overthink though - subdivide by your meter. If it’s in 4/4 then it needs to be notated as 4 and accents can give you the off-beat stresses, rather than beaming which in 2nd version does look a little clunky and would probably prompt some raised eyebrows amongst the players!


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