What is the Dotted Quarter Note?: Everything You Need to Know

In Western musical notation, certain things fall between the lines. Some things are implied or left open to interpretation. Others lie in the in-between spaces, being not quite one thing and not quite another.

So what lies between a half note and a whole note? This is not a trick question.

Dotted notes are at the heart of this mystery [1]. We’ll be looking at dotted quarter notes, specifically.

Read on to learn more about the difference between a regular quarter note and a dotted quarter!

What Is A Dotted Quarter Note?

Have you ever seen a regular quote (the ones with the flag sticking straight up) with a little dot next to it? That’s a dotted quarter note. Here you can read about the dotted half note.

The notation for dotted notes is consistent across different note values. That’s because they denote a note length being one-and-a-half times longer than their standard value.

In the case of dotted quarter notes, that means they last one-and-a-half beats. It’s the equivalent of a quarter note plus an eighth note.

Notes can be double-dotted as well. In the case of a quarter note, that means the note last for a quarter note + eighth note + a sixteenth note.

How To Play A Dotted Quarter Note

Syncopation is a tricky business, even for the most experienced musician [2]. It can be confusing to count out complex polyrhythms in your head, especially if you’re doing other things.

Counting downbeats (“One, Two, Three, Four”) will only get you so far when it comes to playing a dotted quarter note. That’s because they actually fall between the notes, as they involve the eighth note.

To truly play dotted quarter notes effectively, you should practice counting eighth notes. That’s “One and Two and Three and Four and..” if you’re not yet familiar.

To play a dotted quarter note, you’d hit on the downbeat and then again on the “and” following two.

Reason To Use A Dotted Quarter Note

“Why not just use a quarter note and an eighth note together?” you might be thinking. Sure, there are all manners of ways you can extend notes in Western music. The problem is, most of those notations would indicate striking twice, as in the case of a quarter note + an eighth note.

It’s possible to achieve a similar effect with ties, but that can make for hard-to-read music. It also gets old pretty fast if you’re using this rhythm a lot.

If you’re planning on writing or playing a piece with a clave beat, which hits on One; Two-And, or the eighth note following the second downbeat; and Four, you might need a dotted quarter note quite frequently.

Knowing the right music notation makes both playing and writing music as easy and as fun as possible [3]. It also lets you focus on creativity and self-expression instead of focusing on the technicalities.

Ready To Learn More About Music Theory?

That’s so exciting! Learning to play a musical instrument is one of the most rewarding things you can do in this lifetime. It’s also one of the most fun!

Whether you’re just being introduced to dotted quarter notes or are ramping up for your next Segovia recital, we’ve got something to help you along your journey. Read the rest of our music theory articles today!

Stephanie Su

Started learning music when she was four years old, Stephanie is a music teacher and a music therapist who is highly proficient in Piano, Violin, Guitar, and Ukulele. She likes to learn, teach, and share her music playing experiences.

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