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What does a dot do to a note?

Learn what a dot after a note means in music notation

In this video, Robert gives you a basic music theory lesson: what does a dot after a note mean?

Released on November 4, 2015

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, I'm Robert Estrin. This is and Today's question is, "What does a dot do to a note?"

You've seen it in music, and you may have wondered. And now, I'm not talking about staccatos, the dots that are above or below notes. I'm talking about when you have a note with a dot next to it. It changes its length. That's it. Spoiler alert. I've given it away.

But how much does it change the length? A dot after a note makes the note longer. You may have heard an explanation, which is accurate but confusing, where if you add a dot to a note, it adds half the value of the note. Particularly if you're teaching young children, who don't know their fractions yet, and you start talking about, "Well, you have a quarter note here, and you put a dot on that adds half the value. What does that add?" And you get kind of a blank stare. They'll have no idea what you are talking about.

Well, I have a much easier way of approaching dotted notes, that makes a lot of sense, even for more advanced students. Which is, a dot after a note adds the value of the next faster note. What do I mean by that? Well, if you know all your notes, basically, each note is half the value of the next note. In other words, you have a whole note and each whole note is two half notes. So a half note is half the value of a whole note.

What does that mean then? If you add a dot on a whole note, it's equal a whole note plus a half note, a whole plus a half. That's right. So it makes it half again as long. But by thinking of it, by adding the next faster note it's much easier, because a half note to a quarter note. A dotted half note equals a half note plus a quarter note. And so on, down the line. A quarter note, a dotted quarter note is a quarter note plus an eighth note, the next faster note. And you can go on to eighth notes which are dotted, adds a sixteenth note to the value.

Now, there's another way of looking at this, that is also rhythmically very, very helpful. Which is, go back to the dotted whole note, which equals a whole note plus a half note. Another way of looking at that is a dotted whole note equals three half notes. Now, why is this important? Well, because when you get to some of the faster dotted notes, sometimes it's hard to figure out how many note values it gets. Well, think about this. If you have a dotted half note now, that would be three quarter notes. A dotted quarter note equals three eighth notes. And a dotted eighth note equals three sixteenth notes. When you break it down this way, it's much easier to figure out rhythms.

I hope this has been helpful for you. If you have any further questions about dotted rhythms, contact me, and next time we'll talk about doubly dotted rhythms. Does it get even more confusing? No, it's even easier yet. I can't wait to share that with you. Thanks for joining me once again, here at and I'm Robert Estrin.
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Carlos Frederico Coelho Nogueira on November 4, 2015 @3:34 pm PST
Dear mr. Robert:
Can you explain how to use cyphers instead of scores?
Carlos Frederico Coelho Nogueira (from Brazil)
Robert - host, on November 4, 2015 @4:40 pm PST
Cyphers are not used instead of musical scores. They are the utilization of the letters of words within names as the basis of musical compositions. I will produce a video on this subject for you in the future!
Carlos Frederico Coelho Nogueira on November 5, 2015 @10:37 am PST
Thank you very much, mr. Robert!
I'll wait eagerly for your video.


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