Playing Dotted Quarters in 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4

One of the most common difficulties students encounter when beginning to read and perform written rhythms is understanding, and accurately performing, dotted quarter notes in meters where the beat unit is a quarter note, such as 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4. Consequently, this lesson is focused specifically on becoming comfortable and confident with this problematic, yet common duration.

stylized dotted quarter, eighth, half note

Coming from the previous lessons and exercises, we should be familiar with finding the length of a dotted quarter note: it is equal to the duration of three eighth notes. Now that we have had a bit more practice with playing eighth notes, we can employ our eighth note counting technique, "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and", to playing dotted quarter notes as well. Let's look at an example:

In a previous lesson we learned that a tie combines the duration of several notes, so we can get the same effect as a dotted quarter if we tie three eighths in the example above. This results in two notes being played: 

  1. A note that begins on beat one and is held for a total duration of three eighths (the same as a dotted quarter)
  2. A second note that sounds on the "and" count just after the second beat, we usually say "the and of 2"

Rhythms like this are very common and can be written with three tied eighth notes, but it is cleaner to replace the tied eighth notes with a single dotted quarter. The rhythm will sound exactly the same, but the music looks less cluttered.

Let's practice some common rhythms that include dotted quarters in 2/4. In each example, continue speaking eighth notes the entire time (thinking and counting the subdivision) but only clap when a note lines up with the syllable you are speaking. The audio for each example will have a full measure of beats before the actual written rhythm begins so that you can find the tempo. The audio will loop after a short pause so that you can practice the example repeatedly.

Example 1 at 70 BPM

Example 1 at 96 BPM

Example 2 at 70 BPM

Example 2 at 96 BPM

Example 3 at 70 BPM

Example 3 at 96 BPM

Now let's try this in 4/4. As before, speak eighth notes the entire time (thinking and counting the subdivision) but only clap when a note lines up with the syllable you are speaking. 

Example 1 at 70 BPM

Example 1 at 96 BPM

Example 2 at 70 BPM

Example 2 at 96 BPM

Example 3 at 70 BPM

Example 3 at 96 BPM

Example 1 at 70 BPM

Example 1 at 96 BPM

Example 2 at 70 BPM

Example 2 at 96 BPM

Example 3 at 70 BPM

Example 3 at 96 BPM

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