Altering Basic Lengths of Notes and Rests


If you've read the previous tutorials on notes and rests then hopefully you're comfortable about the way a note can be broken down into smaller, shorter units.

This tutorial will look at some ways of altering these basic values, by extending them. There are two methods that we'll look at here, namely dots and ties.


The value of a note can be increased by a half (that is, 50% of its own value, not necessarily 50% of a whole note) by writing a dot next to it. Take a look at the example shown below:

Here, the value of the minim has been increased by half. A minim is a half-note so increasing it by 50% gives a three-quarter note. That, plus the crotchet gives us a total of 4 quarter notes; a full bar of 4/4.

Any note or rest can be dotted, and you will often see dotted notes or rests in music when it is written down. Check this reference chart which shows all the notes and rests from a full note down to a 1/32 note.


Whereas dotting can be used to refine the length of a note by using a smaller sub-division, there is another method of increasing the length of a note as it is played. That is by adding notes together by means of a tie. This is often used to span from one bar to the next. Check out the following example:

Here the last note actually lasts for the duration of a whole note plus one quarter. The last crotchet (quarter-note) of the first bar is continues on for the duration of a futher whole note in the second bar, a total of 5/4 of a whole note.

In this example, the tie tells us that the note should be played continuously, and that the note doesn't need to be restruct at the start of the second bar. It is for this reason that you may often see ties used within a bar to join two or more notes to show that they should be played with one smooth movement between them. For example:

Finally on the subject of ties, it's worth mentioning that only notes are tied - rests are simply written one-after-the-other. If you think about it, this is perfectly logical, as silence just blends right into silence anyway.


That covers a couple more techniques for writing down rhythm patterns in music. This may seem like a relatively short tutorial, but the techniques covered here are things which you are likely to come across frequently when reading sheet music, so take the time to make sure that you understand everything clearly.

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