The Dotted Note

When learning an instrument the dotted note is something many students have a problem with. I am always answering questions such as

  • How many beats does a dotted crotchet have?
  • What does a dot after a note mean?
  • How do I count a dotted quaver?

I believe it is essential to know the theory behind how a dot following a note changes it. The rule is very simple

A dot after a note increases its duration (length)
by half its original value

Examples of how dotted notes work

beats in a dotted half note
beats in a dotted quarter note

Test Yourself

Test yourself by calculating the values of the dotted whole note (dotted semibreve) and dotted eighth note (dotted quaver) shown below. When you think you have worked out how many beats each note is worth click the note to find out if you are correct!

dotted eighth note

Calculate the value of the dotted eighth note and click to find if you are correct.

dotted whole note

Calculate the value of the dotted whole note and click to find if you are correct

But how do I play it?

However, understanding how dotted notes work doesn't necessarily help you when you have to play them! When I was young I understood that a dotted quarter note (or dotted crotchet as I learned) was worth 1½ beats and usually followed by an eighth note (quaver) but that didn't actually help me when I was sitting at the piano trying to 'count' 1½ beats for the dotted quarter note and ½ beat for the eighth note! In the end I figured out that the easiest way to approach this was to just count the beats in the bar (1 2 3 4) and aim to fit the eighth note in the middle of the beats without trying to count 1½. I counted and on the eighth note to help me, but I didn't used to count and on the other beats as I found it too confusing. However, I have shown it both ways here as I know some of my students find this method of counting easier.

So my playing/counting went like this...

how to count dotted notes

As I mentioned earlier, some people prefer to count all the beats (1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &) throughout the whole piece. I always found this method harder, but you should try both and see which you prefer.

how to count dotted notes

Double dots

Some music even has more than one dot following a note. Click here for information on how to read and play notes with double dots

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