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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

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.

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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.

Syncopation

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.

Two groups of musicians will be competing with their syncopated music. Our first group is the Jazz Saxophonists. They’ve clearly shown some syncopation here. Up next we have the Ragtime Piano Player, playing Scott Joplin’s ‘The Entertainer.

‘ Listen to how the low-pitched notes keep the beat while the higher-pitched notes are syncopated. Look at all that syncopation! It’s a close one, but the ragtime player has won this round.

Lesson Summary

Tonight, we watched as each group gave their best.

The ties category showed what it means to have two notes linked together by a curved line. Our contestants added the value of their notes and ‘Arred’ continuously throughout the total value. The dotted notes groups gave their all in extending to represent a note by adding half of their original value. And finally, we heard the excitement and unexpected accents of the syncopation groups, who gave us rhythms with emphasis on the weak or ‘off’ beat.

Who will be the overall winner? Tune in tomorrow night to find out.

Lesson Outcome

After viewing and listening to this video lesson, you should be able to:

  • Identify ties as notes held together with a curved line
  • Recognize that dots next to a note add half the original value of the note they are next to
  • Use syncopation to emphasize the off beat to add a different rhythm.

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