Dotted Notes in Music – How to Count Dotted Rhythms

What are dotted notes in music theory?

When a note is dotted, the rhythm is changed. A dot adds half the note value to the written note. This formula holds for whole notes, half notes, quarters, and all other notes.

When we understand the dotted note formula, we can play our pieces in rhythm.

Dotted Notes in Music Rhythms

When we see a dot beside a note, we add time to the duration of the note.

dotted notes in music explained

A dot beside a note changes the length of time we hold the note.

The dotted note formula is the original note plus one-half of the original.

dot beside note in music

Dotted note formula: The dot adds half the note value to the duration.

For example, a half note gets two beats. A dotted half note will get those two beats, plus half of two, which is one. So in total, this is three beats. 2 + 1 = 3. A dotted half gets three beats.

Likewise, a dotted quarter will get one beat plus half of one beat – or 1 1/2 beats.  This could be a quarter note and an eighth note, or 3 eighth notes.

dotted notes in music

A dotted quarter gets 1 1/2 beats.

Note: Rests in music can also be dotted.

The dot placement matters

A dot above or below the note means something else. Above or below the note head suggests we play the note short and separated. The musical term for this is stacatto. This is not a change in the note duration.

For a note to be a dotted note rhythm, the dot will be beside the note head. This is true for all note values (half, quarter, etc.)

How to Clap and a Count Dotted Note in Music

When we clap and count dotted rhythms, we hold the note for the full value. And we continue counting throughout.

For example, we may count two half notes as “1 2, 3 4.” Or “1 2, 1 2.” The claps land on 1 and 3, or 1 and 1, respectively.

For a dotted half and quarter, we still have a total of 4 beats. But the dotted note gets three and the quarter gets one. So “1 2 3, 4.” The clap lands on 1 and 4.

The total beats in each measure will stay consistent with the time signature for the piece.


Many thanks to for some of the images above. 

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.

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