As notation software still leave the user to choose different beaming options I’ld like to go through the standards for how to beam notes shorter than a quarter note.

Generally we beam according to beats and all beams exceeding beats are broken while beams within a beat division is connected.

First thing is to recognise the difference between simple and compound time signatures. Simple time signatures are when the beat is divisible by 2. This could be 2/4, 3/4, 4/4. If we count the first subdivisions be count 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & and so on.

Compound time signatures are when the beat is divisible by 3 as in 6/8, 9/8, 12/8 and so on.

Even though the count of the eight notes is six the beat (and therefore the pulse) is on eight notes 1 and 4 dividing the bar into two equal beats of 3 eight notes.

In both cases the beams break up on each beat. Sibelius’ default to 4/4 beaming two beats like this:

So you have to be aware when selecting a time signature to select ‘More Options’

Choose ‘Beams and Rest Groups…’

and write ‘2,2,2,2’ in the first field:

This way Sibelius will break the beams automatically. If you’ve change any existing 4/4 time signature to one with another Beam and Rest Groups setting to do the formatting again.

Grouping the beams 4 and 4 is what is known as ‘alla breve’ and is used in 2/2 time signature.

In Finale when making compound time signatures make sure to select the number of beats that corresponds to triple the amount of the denominator. So a 6/8 bar is written as 2 beats of dotted quarter notes.

In Dorico go to Notation Options -> Beam Grouping and select ‘Break beams at beat boundaries’, ‘Only when the group fills the entire bar’, ‘Break beam at tuplet’ any time you can.

All the other options are valid because they have been used throughout history but dividing according to beat units make for the clearest way to present rhythmical information.

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