When writing and notating music, sometimes we want a note to last longer than its 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 what they are and 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 makes 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 effect. It makes the note last longer by adding on half its value.
Let’s look at each type of note and the effect that adding a dot has on its duration.
Dotted Whole Notes (Dotted Semibreves)
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 whole note, it would be 4 + 2 = 6 beats
So a dotted whole note is like adding a whole note and a half note together:
Dotted Half Notes (Dotted Minims)
A half note, or minim, has the value of two beats. But, when you make it a dotted half note, we extend its duration by half its value.
In the case of a half note, it would be:
2 + 1 = 3 beats
So a dotted half note is like adding a half note and a quarter note together:
Dotted Quarter Notes (Dotted Crotchets)
A crotchet, or quarter note, has the value of one beat.
But, when you make it a dotted quarter note, we extend its duration by half its value.
In the case of a quarter note, it would be:
1 + ½ = 1 & ½ beats
So a dotted quarter note is like adding a quarter note and an eighth note together:
Dotted Eighth Notes (Dotted Quavers)
An 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:
Dotted Sixteenth Notes (Dotted Semiquavers)
A sixteenth note, or semiquaver, 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 should it go in the space below the note?
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.
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.