It sounds so simple, right? Two quarter notes in the space of three eighth notes, like in the last bar of Leonard Bernstein’s “America” from West Side Story:
And if you’re a Finale user, it is simple. Just choose 2 Quarters in the space of 3 Eighths from the Tuplet Definition dialog…
…and you’re done:
In Sibelius and Dorico, though, we have to go through a few more steps.
Why, you ask?
Because Sibelius and Dorico always think of tuplets as N in the space of M, where both N and M are equivalent units — they each have the same note value. In other words, a 4:3 tuplet could mean four eighths in the span of three eighths, or four quarters in the span of three quarters, but not, as in the Finale example above, two quarters in the span of three eighths.
Indeed, in Sibelius, creating a full bar of 4 quarters in a 6/8 bar is relatively easy. Just choose Note Input > Triplets > Other and make a 4:3 tuplet:
Ah, but what if I want 2 quarters in the space of 1.5 quarters? No can do. Only integers are welcome to this party.
Well, I can create this, at least:
I know what some of you may be thinking. Just break the beam and hide the flags, and it will look like quarter notes:
Or, clever you, make the eighths dotted, and avoid tuplets entirely:
No, no, no! I want real quarter notes! With a duplet! Just like Bernstein wrote! Because this is “America!” (In case you were wondering why we weren’t calling them crotchets and quavers?)
Let’s persist down this rabbit hole, then.
The solution: Sibelius
The solution in Sibelius is to use nested tuplets. Let’s take each of the eighths in the 2:3 tuplet and, for each of them, create a 2:1 tuplet:
So we have this:
Select the nested tuplets, go to the Inspector, and choose None and No bracket (you could alternatively hide the nested tuplets in Home > Edit > Hide or Show):
Finally, change the eighths to quarters:
The solution: Dorico [updated]
When I first published this post, I outlined a process in Dorico that was, essentially, the same as the one in Sibelius, which involved using nested tuplets, going to the Properties, and select Number: None and Bracket: Hidden.
As quick as ever, though, Steinberg’s Daniel Spreadbury pinged me within minutes and described a much simpler solution, as did several Scoring Notes readers. Here it is!
First, invoke the Tuplet popover and type 4:3e (the e is for “eighth”) — remember, no decimals allowed:
Enter the two quarter notes, so we have this:
Select the tuplet, go to the Properties, and switch on Use contracting ratio:
And you’re done:
Now that you’ve done this, you can copy and paste it to other bars and change the pitches, if needed.
Get Elaine Gould’s book Behind Bars: The Definitive Guide to Music Notation, open to page 203, and read about “contracting ratios” and other such items until your head explodes.