What You Will Learn
  1. How adding a dot to a note affects its value
  2. How ties work
  3. The difference between ties and slurs
  4. Counting tied notes and dotted quarter notes

How to Count Dotted Notes and Ties

Dotted Notes

A dot placed next to a note increases that note's value by half. The dot is always placed to the right of the notehead as shown below:

Dotted note

The note above is known as a dotted half note. The value of of a dotted half note is three beats because the half note is two beats and the dot adds one (half the value of the original note).

Dotted half note

It is possible for a note to have more than one dot, although this occurs infrequently. Each dot after the first one adds half the value of the dot before it. For example, adding a second dot to the dotted half note adds half the value of the first dot. This results in a note that is three and a half beats.

Double dotted half note

Counting Dotted Half Notes

Dotted half notes are equal to a full measure in 3/4. Here is an example of how they would be counted:

Counting dotted half notes in 3/4

A dotted half note is three beats in 4/4. Below is an example of how to count a passage with dotted half notes:

Counting dotted half notes in 4/4

Dotted Rests

Dots can also be added to rests. The dot affects the rest in the same way it affects a note by adding half the value of the rest. However, dotted rests aren't used frequently in simple time signatures. They are common in compound time signatures which you will learn about in a later lesson.


A tie is a curved line between two of the same pitches that combines the rhythmic value of the two notes. Below is an example of a tie combining a note from one measure with the first note of the next measure:

Tied notes

Note that a tie can be used within the same measure or extend into the next measure as shown above.

Don't confuse the tie with a slur. Both are curved lines, but the slur is generally used between different pitches. You will occasionally see slurs between notes of the same pitch, but there is generally other notation that indicates that the notes aren't tied.

Contrasting tie and slur

Counting Tied Notes

Tied notes should be counted the same as notes that aren't tied. The only difference is that the tied note isn't played again. Below is a passage in 4/4 with tied notes that demonstrates how to count these rhythms:

Counting tied notes