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Ties and dots

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Our investigation of the duration of notes and rests has covered a variety of rhythmic values from semiquavers to semibreves. Now let's look at some ways to combine them together for yet more different durations.

A reminder

Before we begin, have a look at the table below to remind yourself of the different symbols used for different note lengths. Remember that the semibreve is twice as long as the minim, which is twice as long as the crotchet, and so on.

semibrevesemibreve rest
The semibreve rest is also used for a whole bar rest
minimminim rest
crotchetcrotchet rest
quaverquaver rest
semiquaversemiquaver rest

Combining durations

We can create plenty of interesting rhythms using only the durations already covered - but why stop there! It is possible to combine these notes together to form a note of virtually any duration.

Two notes can be combined together by means of a tie. Any two notes of the same pitch can be "tied together", and they are then performed as if they were one note of the combined duration.

For instance, in the example below, a crotchet is tied to a second crotchet, making a single note of their combined duration, which lasts as long as a minim.

Two minims tied together to make a note equal in duration to a semibreveTwo crotchets tied together to make a note equal in duration to a minim

Ties and barlines

Although we can tie together any combination of notes, we must be careful not to exceed the number of beats in a bar.

In the following example, we want to write a rhythm of a two crotchets (2 beats) followed by a semibreve (4 beats). The music is in common time, however, and that means there are only 4 beats to a bar.

This problem can be solved by splitting the semibreve into two minims, and tying them together across the barline:

Two minims tied together to make a note equal in duration to a semibreveTwo minims tied together to make a note equal in duration to a semibreve

Ties and rests

We tie notes together to show that the second is not the start of a note, but a continuation of the first. There is no need to tie rests together, you just write out the duration needed.

This makes sense because two crotchet rests "sound" just the same as a minim rest already!


Notes can also be combined - or rather, extended - by the use of dots. A dot after a note (or a rest) extends the duration of that note (or rest) by half as much again.

For example, one crotchet is equal in duration to two quavers. Adding a dot to a crotchet extends it by one additional quaver (half of its original length), making the total length equal to three quavers.

Construction of a dotted crotchet
crotchet = quaver + quaver
dotted crotchet = quaver + quaver + quaver

The following table shows all the dotted versions of the notes, and their equivalent made up of tied notes. Put another way, the second note in the tied version is of the same duration as the dot in the dotted version.

Dotted noteEquivalent tied notes
dotted semibrevedotted semibreve expanded
dotted minimdotted minim expanded
dotted crotchetdotted crotchet expanded
dotted quaverdotted quaver expanded
dotted semiquaverdotted semiquaver expanded

Another way to think

You can think of a dot as extending the dotted note by the next time value "down" in the hierachy of time values shown in the table above. You can therefore easily see that "dotting" a minim is the same as tying on a crotchet to that minim, or that "dotting" a quaver is the same as tying a quaver and a semiquaver together.

Dots and rests

While rests cannot be tied together, they can be dotted. The example below shows a dotted minim rest, which is of three crotchets' duration. The dot symbol can be added to any of the rest symbols for the same effect on the duration as adding a dot to a note.

Construction of a dotted minim rest
dotted minim rest = crotchet + crotchet
dotted minim rest = crotchet + crotchet + crotchet

Special rules

There are special rules for some occasions when you should not tie notes together or use dots, and that depends on the time signature. We will cover this aspect in Beams and Groups.


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