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Beams (Part 3)

Posted by Robert Thomas on February 25th, 2010

Beams fall into two categories: Primary and Secondary. Primary beams link an entire group of notes in one unbroken line. Secondary beams can be broken or partial. Partial beams show mixed rhythmic values by breaking one or more secondary beams, and should not be used when you can beam all the notes together. These beams are always placed inside the larger group. The broken beams point in the direction of the beat of which it is a fraction, and the partial beam always points toward the largest note value in the beat. The length of a partial beam always points toward the largest note value in the beat. The length of a partial beam is the width of a note head. Note stems should go through the secondary beams and extend to the primary beam.1 Secondary beams should not cover either the bottom or the top line of the staff.


18th Post Primary and Secondary Beams Image

Primary and Secondary Beams

Traditional practice was to break beams for rests, but it is now common to include rests in beam groups. When a rest is included in the beam group, short stems, or stemlets, are usually added and extend from the beam partly toward the rest(s). The heights of beams often need adjustment when rests are included in a beamed group. This is especially useful when dealing with rhythmically complex music.


18th Post Stemlets Image

Stemlets


1 In “French Beaming,” the stems of the inner notes of the group extend only to the closest secondary beam; the stems of the outer notes of the group still extend through any secondary beams to the primary beam.

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