Fiendish Quintuplet Conundrum

Hi folks!

Actually, this shouldn’t be all that fiendish. But this one has me stumped, and I’m hoping the Dorico brain trust can offer guidance.

I’m trying to write two-against-five rhythms in 5/8. I always think of the tuplets sign as compressing a set of notes into a shorter duration, as opposed to stretching them into a longer duration. In other words, the unbracketed sequence of notes should have greater duration than they would after they’re bracketed.

So I’d expect to see this:

But I haven’t persuaded Dorico to duplicate this.

Here’s what I’ve tried so far:

In bar 1, the desired rhythm is accurately conveyed. But I’d prefer a tuplet to the difficult-to-read tie.

At bar 10, I entered two half-notes, as shown. Next I selected them and entered a tuplet value of 2:5. The unwanted result appears in bar 20.

Next, at bar 30, I tried entering two quarter notes, selected them, and entered 2:5. The unwanted result appears at bar 41.

Finally at bar 48 I tried entering two eighth-notes. I selected them, typed in 2:5, and got the arrangement seen at bar 56. When played back, the sound is correct, but stretching two eighth-notes out to the length of five eighth-notes looks so very, very wrong.

If you’ve read this far, thanks! And if you have a suggestion about how to achieve the desired appearance, well, thanks ten times over. :slight_smile:

Personally, I think I’d prefer to notate the duplet as two quarter notes, but for two halves in a 5/8 you do the following:

  • type ;
  • type 8:5e in the popover and enter
  • then type 7
  • enter two half notes inside the tuplet
  • close the tuplet with shift-;

(I’m typing on my phone, didn’t test it)

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The solution works, but you need to force duration or you end up with a dotted quarter tied to an eighth.
Edit: The tuplet number is an 8 instead of a 2. Not sure how to change that.

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Thanks for the speedy reply, Pyotr!

What you’re in fact asking for is a 2:1.25 tuplet. Since it’s not possible to do non integer tuplet ratios in Dorico, you will have to fake it. I propose the following workaround:

  1. In your lower voice, enter a 8:5e tuplet containing your half notes.
  2. Inside this tuplet, put the half notes into a nested 2:2 tuplet.
  3. Hide the 8:5e tuplet.

The result looks like this:
Screenshot 2022-09-16 232620 Dorico 2-1.25 tuplet workaround


James, you are correct in all regards.

Screen Shot 2022-09-16 at 2.24.29 PM

But yeah, the octuplet sign looks silly and reader-hostile.

Semi-off topic: I was always trained to use the lowest tuplet note value that exceeds the rhythm of the non-tupleted passage. Hence the two half-notes (= 10 eighth notes) rather than two quarter notes (=4 eighth notes). I agree with Pyotr that two quarter-notes looks nicer, though my training says it’s “wrong.”

But I got my music degrees many years ago, so perhaps I need a reality check: Do you composers commonly use tuplet values that “stretch” the notes to fill the passage? (That is, two quarter note = four eight notes in the space of five eighth notes.)

I did discover in the properties section you can change the number to 4 using the ‘use contracting ratio’ option.

As a composer I would not put two half notes in the place of 5 beats. While I respect composers who write stuff as rhythmically complex as this, I do have to wonder if it writing it without tuplets would make any difference. Just how precise can a performer play rhythmically?

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Thanks, Frigolito! That does indeed work, but what a pain! But unless anyone one has another suggestion, I guess that’ll have to be it.

I understand from what you say that Dorico thinks of this example as a 2:1.25 tuplet. But if I flip the equation and enter a five eight-note quintuplet against two quarter notes in 2/4 (which Dorico easily does) how is that any less a “non-integer ratio?”

But I suppose that’s a purely theoretical question because … it is what it is. (Plus I suck at math.)

Thanks, all, for your generous help. This is the first time I’ve sought help in the Forum, and I’m blown about by the prompt, knowledgeable, and generous suggestions. Thanks so much, guys!

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That’s a fair general assumption, but duplets have long been the exception; they underfill a metric unit, rather than overfilling it like all the other tuplets.

Personally, I hate this (it leads to the absurdity of using the same note value for duplets and quadruplets), and would prefer the way you indicate. Nevertheless, this is the way it’s been done in common-practice scores, and so it is the way I taught it in the years I taught music theory. (Though I would also mention my issues with it, partly as a way to get them to remember “duplets are different.”)

As for your conundrum, I was all set to smugly show you a solution, and I failed utterly; I did no better, probably worse. I expected the popover to accept “2:2.5q”, but it did not. Apparently it balks at that decimal point. Same if I input two regular quarters and then try to tupletize them after the fact. I can get the quarter notes in the right place if I use “4:5e”, but then I get the number 4 for the tuplet, which is no good. So I’m just as stumped as you are.

(After the fact: I see that others contributed while I was completing my comment. Even so, I might as well let it stand, as I think at least the remarks about approved note values contribute something.)

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That’s a great question, James. And generally, I avoid excessively complex rhythms. (Never in a million years would I, for example, use a tuplet within another tuplet, like you might see in, say, a Wuorinen, Carter, or even Zappa score.) But this particular example is from a solo guitar piece, and it’s actually quite easy to play — the second of the slower notes simply falls midway between the third and fourth notes of the quintuplet. It lands directly on a sixteenth-note subdivision.

Grazie, Rinaldo! I’d never heard of the “duplets are different” concept, and like you, I hate it! :slight_smile:

Yes, it’s awfully painful! :stuck_out_tongue: And technically, I guess it is indeed an integer ratio in disguise, but as far as Dorico is concerned, non integer values in tuplets are invalid, regardless if the math checks out.

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As a feature request, it would be great to steal an idea from Finale and be able to enter any number of whatever note value you want, in the span of any number of whatever note value you want. In Finale it’s a snap to specify 2 half notes in the span of 5 eighths as below:

If the popover could accept “2h:5e” that would be a great feature for more complex stuff like this!

I play in a band where this is a fairly common rhythm. (The composer writes in Finale.) I’m sure it probably comes up at multiple points in this composition in 5/8.


After this discussion, I thought of the long strings of quintuplets in Debussy’s “Brouillards.” (Préludes, Book 2.) He notates in 4/8, with quintuplet brackets throughout. (Not a problem for Dorico.) I may end up going that route, even though I definitely “feel” this in five, not in two.

(For what it’s worth, I’m generally not that math-rhythms guy! I’m mainly a rock musician, and not one of the prog variety!) :slight_smile:

I almost always use larger note values in the span of smaller, like a regular 3:2 triplet. Septuplets and Duplets seem to be the common culprits for working the other way though, although like you I’m not a fan of this. Kurt Stone actually goes into this a bit in his book.

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But Kurt Stone doesn’t mention anything about a “duplet exception,” despite that being a “common culprit.” Right?



Too bad the tuplet properties do not have a text field.

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This is actually an easy rhythm, but I was talking about the more complex examples in modern music where I have to wonder if the listener could tell the difference if it were notated simpler.

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I think the issue, which has been troublesome to composers for several centuries, has to do with tuplets whose value seems artificial, like a 7 eighths in the time of 4 eighths, 7:4, which are almost 8 real sixteenth notes, or fifteen 16ths in the time of eighth 16ths are almost sixteen 32nd notes. So if a composer is writing groups of say sixteen 32nd notes and suddenly one group has only fifteen, there is a great tendency to continue using 32nd notes for consistency. It just looks better and is more easily understood by the player.

Since as mentioned, the passage in the OP could be written in 2/4 with eighth note quintuplets and real quarter notes, it would seem most natural to write it in 5/8 using real eighth notes and quarter note duplets, regardless of the rules.


Like this? :grinning:

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