Notating Stems, Flags, and Beams

As we learned previously, notes that have stems can have their stems go either up or down. Choosing the direction can be a bit complicated, but there are some general best practices for choosing stem direction that we will adopt for this course. Thankfully, when using notation software, these rules are applied automatically, but we should also be able to write notation by hand when necessary. Our first rule is that the stem is placed on the right side of the notehead when the stem goes up, and the left side of the notehead when the stem faces down, this is always the case. Our second rule is more general: when the notes appear below the middle staff line, the stems go up, when the notes appear on or above the middle line, the stems go down. This rule has the benefit of keeping as much of the stem inside the five-line staff as possible.
Flags are very straightforward, they are always placed to the right of the stem, and are drawn from the end of the stem towards the notehead.
As you can see in the graphic above, notes with different stem directions present a bit of a problem when we need to beam them together. We do not want a diagonal beam to connect the notes, as this is confusing to the eye. Instead, we flip the stem on some of the notes so that the beamed group of notes have their stems all pointing in the same direction. We then just have a couple of best practices to help decide which stems to flip. The first general idea is that majority rules. In other words, if we have two stems-up and one stem-down note, we go with the majority and flip the stem-down note's stem to match the others. The second is that if we have equal numbers of up and down stems, it's up to the person notating to choose which direction looks best.

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