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Illustrated Tour of Sheet Music: Part One

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Dotted Notes
A dotted half note, and a dotted quarter note.

The dotted quarter note is sometimes considered the length of one beat in certain time signatures, such as 6/8 time.

Image © Brandy Kraemer

Understanding Dotted Notes

Dotted notes may seem confusing, but they are easily explained. You do, however, need to have an understanding of note lengths to make sense of them.

A dot placed next to a note is called a rhythm dot, and increases a note’s duration by 50%; the note is held for its own length, plus half of its original length:


  • Half Note

    A half note = 2 beats in common time
    Half of that length = 1 beat
    2 beats + 1 beat = 3 beats

    A dotted half note has a total duration of 3 beats.


  • Quarter Note

    A quarter note = 1 beat
    Half of that length = 1 eighth-note beat
    1 quarter note + 1 eighth note = 1½ beats

    A dotted quarter note has a total duration of 1 1/2 beats.

Double Dotted Note

While a single rhythm dot increases a note by 50%, two dots increase it by 75% (the first dot adds 50%, and the second dot adds 25%):

  • A double-dotted quarter note equals 1 quarter note + 1 eighth note + 1 sixteenth note, or 1¾ beats.

Triple-dotted notes are less common, but do occur in piano music. A good example is Chopin’s Prelude Opus 28, No. 3, which contains single, double, and triple rhythm dots.


(Not to be confused with staccato; a dot placed above or below a note-head.)



See More Musical Symbols:
Staff & Barlines    ■Note Lengths     ■Articulation Marks    ■Repeat Signs
The Grand Staff      ■Dotted Notes      ■Dynamics & Volume      ■Segno & Coda Signs
Time Signatures       ■Accidentals        ■Key Signatures      ■Pedal Marks
Tempo Commands     ■Piano Chords         ■Music Rests          ■8va & Octave Commands


Related Video
Note Reading Basics
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