Dotted Notes: How Do They Work?

When writing and notating music sometimes we want a note to last longer than it’s time value. As you hopefully know, each different type of musical note lasts for a specific time, but, what happens if you want to extend it? One way is by using dotted notes and in this post we’ll discuss how they work.

What is a dotted note?

A dotted note is simply as it sounds, a note with a dot next to the right of the note head as shown below.

This dot make the note last longer by adding on half its value. Let’s look at some examples to see how this works.

Types of dotted notes

We can add a dot to any type of note and it has the same affect, it makes the note last longer by adding on half its value. Let’s look at each type of note and the affect that adding a dot has on its duration.

Dotted semibreves (dotted whole notes)

A semibreve, or whole note, has the value of four beats. But, when you make it a dotted semibreve we extend its duration by half its value. In the case of a semibreve it would be:

4 + 2 = 6 beats

So a dotted semibreve is like adding a semibreve and a minim together:

Dotted minims (dotted half notes)

A minim, or half note, has the value of two beats. But, when you make it a dotted minim we extend its duration by half its value. In the case of a minim it would be:

2 + 1 = 3 beats

So a dotted minim is like adding a minim and a crotchet together:

a doted minim is equal to a minim plus a crotchet

Dotted crotchets (dotted quarter notes)

A crotchet, or quarter note, has the value of one beat. But, when you make it a dotted crotchet we extend its duration by half its value. In the case of a crotchet it would be:

1 + ½ = 1 & ½ beats

So a dotted crotchet is like adding a crotchet and a quaver together:

a doted crotchet is equal to a crotchet plus a quaver

Dotted quavers (dotted eighth notes)

A quaver, or eighth note, has the value of ½ a beat. But, when you make it a dotted quaver we extend its duration by half its value. In the case of a quaver it would be:

½ + ¼ = ¾ beat

So a dotted quaver is like adding a quaver and a semiquaver together:

a doted quaver is equal to a quaver plus a semiquaver

Dotted semiquavers (dotted sixteenth notes)

A semiquaver or sixteenth note, has the value of 1/4 of a beat. But, when you make it a dotted semiquaver we extend its duration by half its value. In the case of a semiquaver it would be:

¼ + ⅛ = ⅜

So a dotted semiquaver is like adding a semiquaver and a demisemiquaver together.

Where do you place the dot on a stave?

When dotting notes on a stave there are a couple of different places you could put it. Should it go in the space above the note or below? Well, when we dot a note that is on a line on the stave, we place the dot in the space above the line. Not in the space below the line. And when we dot a note that is sitting in a space of the stave, we place the dot in the same space as the note head.

dotted notes on the stave

The dot never goes to the left of the note. It’s also not to be placed above the note as this is a staccato marking which is something different altogether!

Double dotted notes

If you wanted to extend a note’s value even more, you can also have double dotted notes. Double dotted notes are rare but come up from time to time in music theory. Each dot in a double dotted note has a different value though.

The first dot is as described above, you extend the duration of the note by adding on half of the note’s value.

But the second dot adds on half of the first dot’s value to the note. So if you had a double dotted crotchet (double dotted quarter note) the first dot would be worth a quaver, and the second dot would be worth a semiquaver (half of a quaver).

1 + ½ + ¼ = 1 & ¾ beats

I’ll do another post on this to explain it in more detail soon but for now you can read about double dotting notes here.

Can dotted notes go across bar lines?

The quick answer is no, dotted notes can’t go across bar lines. If we want a note to go over a bar line then we use another way to make the note last longer by adding a tie to the notes. Check out my post on tied notes here.

Summing up dotted notes

Dotted notes are an essential part of music theory. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to write so many rhythms and music would be very restrictive. If you have any more questions about them post a comment below.

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