Dotted Quarter Notes

You know you’ve found a dotted quarter note when you see a quarter note with a dot beside it.

dotted quarter note

Just as you might suspect, the name itself describes exactly what it looks like.

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Let’s Figure It Out

What we already know is that a quarter note receives 1 beat in the 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 time signatures.

quarter note value

Okay, so a dotted quarter note has to be worth at least 1 beat. However, there is a dot included that must increase the value somehow.

In order to find out just how much, we need to review the dot rule.

Dot Rule

The rule says this:

Add half the value of the note to the note.

Step 1 – Divide the quarter note in half.  What do you get?

half of quarter note

Yes, it’s 1/2 a beat.

This means the value of the dot is 1/2 a beat.

dot value

( Quick review: A single eighth note equals 1/2 a beat. That’s why you see an eighth note in these examples. The dot equals an eighth note.)

Step 2 – Now add the dot to the quarter note.  How many beats total do you get?

dotted quarter note value

You should have 1 1/2 beats total.

So, the dotted quarter note equals 1 1/2 beats.

dotted quarter notes

That’s easy!


We can’t have 1/2 a beat missing in music. There need to be beats using whole numbers (except zero).

Dotted quarter notes are missing 1/2 a beat to reaching the whole number of 2. What are we going to do?

Well, we need to add another 1/2 a beat.

Do you remember what type of note or rest equals 1/2 a beat?  

Yes, you got it. The single eighth note or eighth rest will work great in this case to complete the beats reaching the whole number 2.

We can add the eighth note before or after the dotted quarter note for a total of 2 beats.

dotted quarter and eighth note

You can do the same with the eighth rest.

eighth note and dotted quarter note

This is why we never see a dotted quarter note sitting by itself.  It’s usually accompanied by some other note or rest that will make up for the lack of 1/2 a beat.

An Easier Way to Count It

Whenever I problem-solve rhythms (notes and/or rests combined together), I like to break everything down into the smallest value you see on the page.

In this case, the eighth note is the smallest value.

So, I take the quarter note and divide it down into eighth notes also.

quarter note equals

The quarter note equals 2 eighth notes total. Do you remember how much the dot is worth?

Yes, 1/2 a beat.

A single eighth note represents 1/2 a beat. That means the dot is the same as 1 eighth note.

dotted quarter notes value

Now, it’s easier to see how to count it.

counting dotted quarter notes

We made it!  Not only will you be an expert on dotted quarter notes, but with any type of note or rest that includes a dot.  

A little math is all it takes to solve any rhythm or note value.

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3 thoughts on “Dotted Quarter Notes”

  1. I have a 3/4 piano sheet showing an eight note immediately followed by a dotted whole note. How do play it? Do I make a 2nd strike or just hold the note 6 beats?

  2. It sounds like a major misprint in the music. 1 eighth note + 1 dotted whole note is more than 3 counts in a measure.

  3. My mistake, sorry. it is not 1 eight note + 1 dotted whole note.
    Rather, 1 eight note + 1 dotted eight note.

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