Dotted note

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Dotted notes and their equivalent durations. The curved lines, called ties, add the note values together.

In Western musical notation, a dotted note is a note with a small dot written after it.[a] In modern practice, the first dot increases the duration of the basic note by half (the original note with an extra beam) of its original value. This means that a dotted note is equivalent to writing the basic note tied to a note of half the value – for instance, a dotted half note is equivalent to a half note tied to a quarter note. Subsequent dots add progressively halved value, as shown in the example to the right.[1][b]

The use of dotted notes dates back at least to the 10th century, but the exact amount of lengthening a dot provides in early music contexts may vary. Mensural notation uses a dot of division to clarify ambiguities about its context-dependent interpretation of rhythmic values, sometimes alongside the dot of augmentation as described above. In the gregorian chant editions of Solesmes, a dot is typically interpreted as a doubling of length (see also Neume).

A pattern using longer notes alternating with shorter notes is sometimes called a dotted rhythm, whether or not it is written as such. Historical examples of music performance practices using unequal rhythms include notes inégales and swing. The precise performance of dotted rhythms can be a complex issue. Even in notation that employs dots, their performed values may be longer or shorter than the dot mathematically indicates, practices known as over-dotting or under-dotting.[2]


If the note to be dotted is on a space, the dot also goes on the space, while if the note is on a line, the dot goes on the space above (this also goes for notes on ledger lines).[3]

    \relative c'' {
        \time 4/4
        c4. d8 b8. a16 g4

The placement of dots gets more complicated for adjacent-note chords and for lower voices, as shown below.

    << \clef treble
        \relative c'' {
            \time 4/4
            \stemNeutral <b c>4. e8 <g, a b c d>4. b8
            \stemUp d4. c8 b8. c16 d c8.
        } \\ \relative c'' {
            g4. a8 b8. a16 g a8.

The dots on dotted notes, which are located to the right of the note, should not be confused with the dots for staccato articulation, which are located above or below the note.

Theoretically, any note value can be dotted, as can rests of any value. If the rest is in its normal position, dots are always placed in third staff space from the bottom, as shown in the example below.[4] The dotted rests are very common in simple meters, but also necessary in compound ones, as shown in the example below.

    \relative c'' {
        \time 6/8
        r2. r4. r8. r8.

In Baroque music, dotted notation was sometimes used to indicate triplet rhythms when it seemed obvious.

Dots can be used across barlines, such as in H. C. Robbins Landon's edition of Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 70 in D major, but most writers today regard this usage as obsolete and recommend using a tie across the barline instead.[5]

Double dotting[edit]

    \relative c'' {
        \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"violin"
        \key bes \major
        \time 2/4

        \clef treble
        f8.. es32 d8-. d-. 
        d( es) c4
    }  }
A fragment of the second movement of Joseph Haydn's String Quartet, Op. 74, No. 2, a theme and variations. The first note is double-dotted. Haydn's theme was adapted for piano by an unknown composer.
(3.7 KB MIDI file)

A double-dotted note is a note with two small dots written after it. Its duration is 1+34 times its basic note value. The double-dotted note is used less frequently than the dotted note. Typically, as in the example to the right, it is followed by a note whose duration is one-quarter the length of the basic note value, completing the next higher note value. Before the mid-18th century, double dots were not used. Until then, in some circumstances, single dots could mean double dots.[6]

In a French overture (and sometimes other Baroque music), notes written as dotted notes are often interpreted to mean double-dotted notes,[7] and the following note is commensurately shortened; see Historically informed performance.

Triple dotting[edit]

 { \relative c'' { \tempo 4 = 120 \time 4/4 f4... f32 f4... f32 e1 } }
(0 dots)

(1 dot)

(2 dots)

(3 dots)

A triple-dotted note is a note with three dots written after it; its duration is 1+78 times its basic note value. Use of a triple-dotted note value is not common in the Baroque and Classical periods, but quite common in the music of Richard Wagner and Anton Bruckner, especially in their brass parts.[citation needed]

An example of the use of double- and triple-dotted notes is in Frédéric Chopin's Prelude in G major for piano, Op. 28, No. 3. The piece, in common time (4
), contains running semiquavers (sixteenth notes) in the left hand. Several times during the piece Chopin asks for the right hand to play a triple-dotted minim (half note), lasting 15 semiquavers, simultaneously with the first left-hand semiquaver, then one semiquaver simultaneously with the 16th left-hand semiquaver.

Beyond three[edit]

Though theoretically possible, a note with more than three dots is highly uncommon;[8] only quadruple dots have been attested.[9] If the original note is considered as being of length 1, then a quintuple dot would only be 1/32 longer than the quadruple dotted note.[c] The difficulty may be seen by comparing dotted notation to tied notation: a quarter note (quarter note) is equivalent to 2 tied eighth notes (eighth note), a dotted quarter = 3 tied eighth notes, double dotted = 7 tied sixteenth notes (sixteenth note), triple dotted = 15 tied thirty-second notes (thirty-second note), and quadruple dotted = 31 tied sixty-fourth notes (sixty-fourth note). Although shorter notes do occur, sixty-fourth notes are considered the shortest practical duration found in musical notation.[10]

Base note duration = 1
Undotted 1 dot 2 dots 3 dots 4 dots
Lengthens N/A () 12 14 18 116
Decimal result
Fractional result 12 34 78 1516

Other contexts[edit]

The journalist and editor of The Musical Times, Frederick George Edwards, used the pseudonym "Dotted Crochet". Under this name he wrote "educationally suggestive interviews with musical celebrities", as well as articles about "cathedrals, churches, and educational institutions".[11][12]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ For dots placed above or below notes, see Staccato and Portato.
  2. ^ If the base note is 1, then the xth dot adds the length (1/2, 1/4, 1/8, ...).
  3. ^ Tempos vary from ≤24 beats per minute to ≥200 bpm; at a slow larghetto tempo of quarter note = 60 (one quarter note per second; 60 bpm), the length of a quintuple dotted note is 0.03125 seconds longer than a quadruple dotted note and presumably below the just-noticeable difference for musical duration and too fast to allow proper counting and accuracy.


  1. ^ Read 1969, p. 114, ex. 8–11; p. 116, ex. 8–18; p. 117, ex. 8–20.
  2. ^ Hefling, Stephen E. (2001). "Dotted rhythms". In Sadie, Stanley; Tyrrell, John (eds.). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 978-1-56159-239-5.
  3. ^ Glen Rosencrans, Music Notation Primer. New York: Passantino (1979): 29
  4. ^ Read 1969, p. 119; p. 120, ex. 8–28. The author points out the obvious fact "that it is impossible to tie rests".
  5. ^ Read 1969, pp. 117–118. "Ranging from Renaissance madrigals to the keyboard works of Johannes Brahms, one often finds such a notation as the one at the left below." (The next page shows an example labeled "older notation" of two measures of music in 4
    of which the second measure contains, in order: an augmentation dot, a quarter note and a half note.).
  6. ^ Taylor, Eric (2011). The AB Guide to Music Theory Part I. ABRSM. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-85472-446-5.
  7. ^ Adam Carse, 18th Century Symphonies: A Short History of the Symphony in the 18th Century. London: Augener (1951): 28. "Contemporary theorists made it clear that the dotted note should be sustained beyond its actual value (the double dot was not then in use), and that the short note or notes should be played as quickly as possible."
  8. ^ Bussler, Ludwig (1890). Elements of Notation and Harmony, p. 14. 2010 edition: ISBN 1-152-45236-3.
  9. ^ "Extremes of Conventional Music Notation".
  10. ^ Morehen, John. 2001. "Hemidemisemiquaver". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan.
  11. ^ Range, Matthias (2012). Music and Ceremonial at British Coronations : From James I to Elizabeth II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-139-55234-9. OCLC 811502356.
  12. ^ "Frederick George Edwards. Born, October 11, 1853. Died, November 28, 1909". The Musical Times. 51 (803): 9–11. 1910. ISSN 0027-4666.


  • Read, Gardner (1969). Music Notation: A Manual of Modern Practice (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

External links[edit]