We already know symbols with durations of one, two, and four beats, but what symbol can we use for a note having a duration of three beats?

There is no symbol for such duration, but we can create one by adding a dot or a tie.

Attaching a dot to the right side of the note will add half its value to its total duration. For instance, if we add the dot to a half note (minim) - which usually lasts for two beats - we will have a three beats note (half of 2 is 1, and 2 + 1 = 3). Let’s now see the value of the symbols we already know after adding the dot:

Note Duration
6 beats (4 + 2)
3 beats (2 + 1)
1 beat and a half (1 + 1/2)

The tie allows us to achieve the same goal. Using a tie between two notes will add the value of the second note to the first value. For instance, if we tie a quarter note (crotchet) to a half note (minim), we will get a note lasting three beats (same as a dotted half note).

The following musical example illustrates the use of a dotted half note (minim) and a half note tied to a quarter note (crotchet). You will hear a percussive sound for each beat and a flute playing the written notes. Note that the resulting rhythm on the first measure (using the tie) is the same as the second bar's rhythm (using the dotted note).

Translated by Dan Román, revised by Sue Talley.