Rhythm: Recognizing Syncopation, Dotted Notes & Ties

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  • 0:07 Ties, Dotted Notes,…
  • 0:25 Ties
  • 1:49 Dotted Notes
  • 3:30 Syncopation
  • 5:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Liz Diamond-Manlusoc

Liz has taught music for K-12 and beyond. She holds a master's degree in Education Media and Design Technology.

Beyond simple quarter notes and eighth notes, musical rhythm can become confusing. In this lesson, you'll learn how to recognize and define ties, dotted notes and syncopation. You'll also learn two styles where syncopation is often heard and how ties and dotted notes contribute to creating syncopation.

Ties, Dotted Notes and Syncopation

This week, on EP Idol: we are down to two teams in each category - the battle of the ties, the showdown stretch of the dotted notes and the displacing knockdown round of the syncopated notes. Let's start with our first category, the ties category.


Ties are two notes linked together by a curved line. Ties are used to extend notes. When two notes are tied, their note values are added together, and the note is played for the total value without stopping. You can think of it like an extension cord - the power travels continuously through the cords from the outlet to the gadget without stopping.

Tonight, our two remaining pirates, Long John Silvernote and Blackbeard McTie, will be competing for the longest 'Arr.' Long John Silvernote, you're up first. Wow, a whole note, tied to a half note, tied to a quarter note - that's a total of seven beats in 4/4 time! Blackbeard McTie, can you beat that? A whole note, tied to another whole note, tied to a quarter note - that's nine beats in 4/4 time! And Blackbeard McTie is our winner in the ties category tonight with the longer tie.

Dotted Notes

Let's move on to our next category with dotted notes. A dotted note is literally a note with a dot attached. The dot extends the length of the note by adding half the value of the note it's attached to. For example, here we have a dotted half note. In general, half notes equal two beats. When we add the dot, the note is played for three beats. The dot added one beat, because the half note is worth two beats, and half of two is one.

The dotted notes competition has been heating up, and we're down to our final two in this category. Again, the groups are showing length by adding half the value of the original set up. Will they be able to go the distance? Let's start with our first group, Robert Quarterman and his daughter, Dottie. Robert is representing a quarter note of one beat and his daughter is representing the dot, adding half a beat. Oh, they're coming up a bit short tonight with only one and a half beats. Let's see what our second group, The Dotmasters, has to offer. The first four are representing a whole note of four beats and the other two are representing two more beats, since half of four is two. That makes for a total of six beats! We've got a clear winner here.


Lastly, we've got the syncopation section. Syncopation is giving an emphasis on the weak or the 'off' beat. Syncopation adds interest and excitement through unexpected accented notes. This happens through the use of rests, ties, dotted notes or some combination of the three. Syncopation is especially prevalent in jazz and ragtime music, though is often heard in music today as well. A real-life example is a hiccup, when your diaphragm displaces the rhythm of your breathing. It's also like when you are walking and stumble or trip yourself by stepping out of pace. If you are tapping your foot to the beat of a song and the notes are when your foot is coming up so that they are opposite of the beat, you have syncopation.

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