I'm a Jazz Trumpet Player. When playing written music, the lead/conductor sometimes asks for us to mark on the music to remember to hold a note for the full value.

So, consider music is in 4/4 time. A bar starts with an 1/8 note followed by a dotted 1/4 note, followed by a half note rest. The 2nd note is to be held the full value. It is how it is written but sometimes musicians don't play exactly what they should. :-)

So, I've typically written a line over the 2nd note. But someone said, I could write a -2 or -3, and I can't remember which one it is. I think it's -2 to mean hold to the end of the 2nd beat.

I could also read it is -3 means hold until the start of the 3rd beat of the measure.

I'm sure it's simple for someone who knows the answer.


  • 1
    I’m not putting it as an answer because I am sure there is a proper way to do this but If this a reminder for yourself could you not use any notation you want to remind yourself?
    – b3ko
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 16:41

3 Answers 3


Tenuto - a simple straight line over the note. Like the minus sign you thought.

  • That is not universal across all instruments, sadly. Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 17:54
  • @CarlWitthoft - so what are other signs that are used? That has to be part of your answer, surely.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 8:40
  • as I've posted more than a few times, :-), dolmetsch.com/musicalsymbols.htm Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 15:42
  • @CarlWitthoft - tenuto seems to be the only word...
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 15:48

If it's important to play right to the end of the dotted quarter note, an arranger might rewrite the bar, replacing the half-note rest at the end of the bar with a staccato eighth note followed first by an eighth rest then a quarter rest.

The dotted quarter note (the second note in the bar) would then be tied to the staccato eighth note.

When you perform this notation you automatically play the dotted quarter note its full length.

See also Is there a musical difference between a work ending with a whole note and one ending with a whole note tied to an eighth?

  • Admittedly this is opinion, but "faking" the note length that way is poor practice. Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 17:57

There are certainly stylistic differences between, e.g., jazz and 18th-century symphonies. However, in absence of any other direction or marking (staccato, etc) all notes are to be played to the beginning of the next beat (or rest in the case of notes shorter than a beat).

If your bandleader wants a different perforance style such as keeping all notes short and separated, he can discuss that during rehearsal. Similarly, if you're playing a solo or a solo part in a concerto, as soloist you're allowed some leeway in personal interpretation as to lengths of final notes in a phrase.

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