Extending Notes with Dots and Ties

Part of the Music Theory For Dummies Cheat Sheet

All notes have a certain value, indicated by the size and shape of the note, that determines how long a pitch should be held by the voice or an instrument. Sometimes, however, you want to add to the value of a note to create syncopation or other interest in your musical piece. You can extend a note's value in written music using dots and ties. Here's the lowdown on each:

  • Augmentation dot: This dot indicates that a note's value is increased by one half of its original value. The most common use of the dotted note is when a half note is made to last three quarter-note beats instead of two, as shown in the figure. Less common is the dotted whole note. This dotted note means the whole note's value is increased from four beats to six beats.

  • Tie: Ties connect notes of the same pitch to create one sustained note instead of two separate ones. When you see a tie, simply add the notes together. For example, a quarter note tied to another quarter note equals one note held for two beats, as shown in the figure.

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