Learn to Read Drum Music – Part 6 – Dotted Notes Explained

What’s up Drummers! We’ve made it to part 6 of my How to Read Drum Music series. You have done very well up to this point. We have covered a lot of topics so far, so if you’re here out of order, click the links to see what you’ve missed:

This post will take us back to looking at notes – more correctly, an addition to notes: The Dot

What are Dotted Notes?

What Are Dotted Notes

In a nutshell, a dotted note is any note with a dot (quarter, 8th, 16th, etc…) that increases the note’s duration by adding to it half of it’s original value. Confusing, I know…

As usual, this is much easier if you can see it:

Dotted Quarter Note

In the example above we have a dotted quarter note, which has the value of one quarter PLUS an 8th. Since we know that half of a quarter note is an 8th note, the math shouldn’t be too difficult.

A dot can be added to any note, and the same formula applies. Here is a simple diagram of some of the common dotted notes you will see:

All dotted notes

**Note: Dots can also be added to rests as well!**

Double Dotted Notes

Because things are never easy, there are double dotted notes. A double dotted note holds the original note value plus half the value, and then half of that half’s value. ugh…

Let’s visualize this with a double dotted half note:

Double Dotted Half Note

As you can see, a double dotted half note is the value of one half note, one quarter note, and one 8th note.

Double dotted notes are rare and the chances of coming across them are very slim. In reality, you can have as many dots as you want, but after two it gets a little ridiculous. I have never seen a quadruple dotted note.

For future reference, with every dot you add, follow the formula: Original note, plus half, plus half, half, half, half, etc….

Below is a diagram of some possible double dotted notes:

All Double Dotted Notes

Counting Dotted Notes

The good news about dotted notes is that when it comes to counting, there is nothing new to learn. We have already learned how to count all of the common notes, which I know you’re already an expert at!

The difficulty comes in doing the math for the dots as quickly as possible in your head. This may be a little hard at first, but once you get used to how dotted notes look, it becomes second nature.

Here is a simple reading example using dotted half and quarter notes:

Dotted half and quarter note reading

Dotted 8th Notes

I have given dotted 8th notes their own section because of two common shapes that we have not seen yet.

Dotted 8th & 16th

Dotted 8th, 16th

Another way to look at a dotted 8th note would be to think of it as three 16th notes combined. Because we beam 16th notes into groups of four, it is common to see a dotted 8th note beamed together with a 16th. Visually, this is a simplified way of reading things so that you can recognize the shapes faster.

When counting, it is no different than anything we have seen thus far. With a dotted 8th followed by a 16th note, you would count the first note (1), and then the last 16th note (a):

Dotted 8th and 16th Counting

16th and Dotted 8th

16th, Dotted 8th

The other grouping possible is a 16th note followed by a dotted 8th note. Another way you can think of it is a 16th note followed by 3 combined 16th notes. Counting starts with the downbeat (1), and is followed by the second 16th (e):

16th, Dotted 8th Counting

Reading Examples

Now that we know what dotted notes are, let’s test our skills with a few reading examples.

First, we will start with dotted half notes:

Dotted Half Reading

Next, we will look at dotted quarter notes:

Dotted Quarter Reading

And Lastly, let’s look at reading dotted 8th notes:

Dotted 8th Reading

Now let’s combine all of them:

Dotted Note Reading

Let’s Test Those Skills

For a final test, I will write out 16 bars of music with everything we have learned up to this point, including dotted notes:

Dotted Reading Final Exam

If you are getting stuck, click here to see the answers.

So how did you do? Do you understand how dotted notes work, and are you comfortable reading them? Let me know in the comments down below!

Happy drumming!


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