I've recently encountered a -4 above the stave in both vocal and instrumental jazz pieces. None of the students nor our director know what to do with it, what does it mean? Here are two examples:

Wave - By Antonio Carlos Jobim - Arr. Paris Rutherford Wave - Jobim - Arr. Rutherford

Birdland - By Joe Zawinul - Arr. Victor Lopez Birdland - Zawinul - Arr. Lopez

  • Possibly give us a larger peek at the dots?
    – Tim
    Nov 9, 2016 at 17:31

1 Answer 1


It's an indication of when to end the pitch. (And since this is jazz, it very well may be requesting a tongue stop.)

In other words, both of these pitches should end immediately on beat 4, even though the latter example appears as if the pitch should continue for one extra eighth note.

  • Would it be as good to write just the dotted minim and then a crotchet rest? Good players should be able to read and play it correctly. Maybe with a phrase line.
    – Tim
    Nov 9, 2016 at 22:39
  • Absolutely. I'm not sure of the rationale for the (relatively common) practice of tying held pitches to unnecessary eighth notes.
    – Richard
    Nov 9, 2016 at 22:44
  • Why do they use the “one extra eighth note” if it is not sounded? — Sorry I see you don’t know either; perhaps worth a question in its own right!
    – PJTraill
    Nov 9, 2016 at 23:49
  • That's what I mean; I have no idea! I've never encountered a decent answer to that question.
    – Richard
    Nov 9, 2016 at 23:50
  • 2
    @PJTraill: If the doted half were followed by a quarter note, then on many instruments it would be necessary to end the note a moment before the start of the fourth beat. In some cases, it would be helpful for a player to end a note just before the next beat even if what follows is a rest (especially the note should end the same time as notes performed by other performers who have a note following).
    – supercat
    Nov 10, 2016 at 0:57

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