Recently I've come across some double-dotted notes, and even some triple-dotted ones which seem a bit quirky to me, but who knows?

For one dot, you add 1/2 of the note's length, so I suppose for two dots, you add 1/2 + 1/4, and for three dots, you add 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8.

Is the practice of using more than one dot common in modern scores? It seems to me they appear more in older works. Also, this seems a bit silly, but could you potentially dot a note with more than three dots?

4 Answers 4


Dots in general start to get messy after the first one and can lead to confusion to while sight reading if more than one is used. For the sake of sight reading there are even some syncopated lines where a normal duration like a quarter note or eighth note are represented as ties to show the beat better.

Using more than one dot is more theoretical in nature than practical. I know I've only used a double dot once in actual peice, but eventually changed it because it was easier to follow.

You can have as many dots as you like, but it gets crazy pretty fast. Here's a quintuple dotted half note and a 128th note to fill out the last part of the measure and the equivalent tied:

enter image description here

You'll probably never encounter anything close to this, but I'm sure you would prefer to read the tied version instead as it is a lot clearer.

  • 4
    That's pretty crazy either way!!
    – Tim
    Jul 19, 2015 at 18:00
  • 2
    I'd vastly prefer the first.
    – MattPutnam
    Jul 20, 2015 at 18:02
  • 3
    Where with the second, I see the flags coming, and naturally start subdividing the whole thing, already sub-dividing. And will likely get the 128th note in the rights spot. The rest of music is additive, so context switching takes more mental energy and will likely cause a musician (especially a newer one) to just think "really long note..." than to count it out. Jul 20, 2015 at 19:01
  • I'd say that double-dotted notes are pretty common in practice, especially for a double-dotted 8th note followed by a 32nd note (though I've found that it's highly unusual to use more than a single dot on half notes and longer). I may have seen a triple-dotted note once, but if you need more than two dots, you're best going with tied notes.
    – cjm
    Feb 29, 2016 at 20:26
  • There are triple-dotted crotchets (quarters) and quadruple-dotted minims (halves) in Rex tremendae from Verdi's Requiem. The latter are the only examples I know of more than three augmentation dots on a single note-head.
    – Rosie F
    Apr 13, 2020 at 14:07

I'm guessing that tied notes have rather taken over. They're easier to read - were there two or three dots?- and the grouping probably is easier to follow. Let's face it, it's simpler to read a crotchet tied to a shorter note than do the sums to work out how long the (double) dotted note needs to be.

  • I think the question is opinion based. With the answers there are some feel good with the dots, and you just need to calculate what's leftover. The others want to sure by seeing the durations, while the dots could be hard to count.
    – Nachmen
    Feb 28, 2016 at 7:25

Historically, up to the 18th century a single dot followed by short notes didn't necessarily mean "add exactly half the length", It could mean either more or less than half, depending on the style and tempo of the music (and the performers were expected to be able to judge that without any written instructions on the score). You often see "mathematically incorrect" notations like a dotted quarter note followed by three 32nd notes.

In the early classical period (up to early Beethoven) dotted notes were sometimes used instead of ties across barlines - for example a half-note at the end of a bar and the dot written at the start of the next bar, where the tied note would be in modern notation.

In the 19th century the usage corresponded closer with the mathematical "add half" rule. Double dots were often used, and three dots occasionally. I can't remember ever seeing more than three.

Modern scores, especially with time signatures that are not so "simple" as 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, or 6/8 (or no time signature at all), tend to use tied notes rather than multiple dots. Counting "beats" in a time signature like 11/16 is hard enough without having to read multiply-dotted notes.

Note also that dotted rests have never been used, except where they represent whole beats in compound times - i.e. dotted quarter-note rests in 6/8 and 9/8, and dotted half-note rests for half a bar of 12/8 - though in the 18th century the dots after the such rests were often omitted, since the absence of any notes was enough to make a common-sense interpretation of what the notation meant.

Of course new editions of old music often change the original notation to match current notation conventions - which can sometimes add a misleading sense of "mathematical accuracy" which the composer never intended.


Instead of thinking of dots as being additive, think of dotted notes as being short of the next longest duration.

  • A quarter note is one quarter note short of a half note
  • A dotted quarter is one eighth note short of a half note
  • A double-dotted quarter is one sixteenth note short of a half note
  • A triple-dotted quarter is one 32nd note short of a half note
  • Etc.
  • 1
    I suppose that's another way to think of it. Personally, it's easier to count if I add the lengths together. Jul 22, 2015 at 6:35

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