Dave Clews breaks down dots and ties
At its most fundamental level, music is essentially a collection of notes of varying pitches and lengths. This is represented on the printed page via a system of notation that has evolved gradually throughout the centuries into what we know today, with pitches represented by the vertical positioning of the notes on the stave.
The rhythmical side of things, however, has always been depicted by the use of different note styles that reflect different durations, such as crotchets (quarter-notes), quavers (eighthnotes) and minims (half-notes). That’s all well and good, but to enhance the flexibility of this pictorial representation of rhythm, early musicians devised a system of amendments to these basic note forms, in the form of dots and ties – aka augmentation dots and tenuto ties. Essentially, adding a dot to the right of a note head extends its duration by half its original length. Meanwhile, ties are used to link notes of the same pitch together and extend them so that if they cross bar lines or beat divisions, they can be interpreted as a single long note.
Altering note lengths in this way can have a drastic effect on the feel and the rhythm of a part, so for this month’s EasyGuide, I’m going to take a look at the principle behind dots and ties and see how these mysterious notation devices translate into the real world.