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

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

Adding a dot to the right side of the note adds half its value to the total duration. For example, if we add the dot to a half note (minim) - which usually lasts two beats - we will have a note of three beats (half of 2 is 1, and 2 + 1 = 3). Now let's look at 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 adds the value of the second note to the first. For example, if we tie a quarter note (crotchet) to a half note (minim), we get a note that lasts three beats (the 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. Notice that the resulting rhythm in the first bar (using the tie) is the same as the rhythm in the second bar (using the dotted note).

Translated by Dan Román, revised by Sue Talley.