musical duration dots

Musical Duration Dots Abound in Chopin Prelude #3

Musical Duration Dots Abound in Chopin Prelude #3. What do dots do to the duration of notes? In Western musical notation, a dotted note is a note with a small dot written after it. In modern practice, the first dot increases the duration of the basic note by half (the original note with an extra beam) of its original value. This means that a dotted note is equivalent to writing the basic note tied to a note of half the value. For instance, a dotted half note is equivalent to a half note tied to a quarter note. Subsequent dots add progressively halved value.Chopin uses this quite effectively in his Prelude #3. I call his use by the name of pyramided dots.That is because you can make the numbers 1,2, and 3 into a pyramid. See the illustrations below:

Geometric progression and series created by adding successive dots.

On the top treble clef, three dots are used twice:

  • The 1st beat of measure one.
  • Also, the first beat of measure three.

One the second treble/bass staff, two dots are then used twice:

  • On the third beat of the treble.

Single dots are used by Chopin in the 5th and 6th measures.

T3 illustrates the 1,2, and 3 rows of dots made into a “pyramid”.

A triple-dotted note is a note with three dots written after it; its duration is ​1 78 times its basic note value. Use of a triple-dotted note value is not common in the Baroque and Classical periods. It is quite common in the music of Richard Wagner and Anton Bruckner, especially in their brass parts.

What Effect do the Musical Duration Dots have on Chopin’s Prelude?

I feel Chopin’s compositions for the piano are highly innovative. My own teacher was Mischa Kottler. He studied with Alfred Cortôt. This was in the 1920’s. In turn Cortôt studied with a pupil of Chopin. I was taught to play a dotted note on the piano with more tone. Then certainly a double dot should be played with more tone.  A triple dotted note should then have tone to the max. Tone, when played on the piano, should always sound pleasing. Ask me for a live demonstration of this Chopin Prelude on the newly refurbished 1924 Steinway Concert Grand at the Gasparilla Inn. I play for there for dining 6 nights weekly. See internal link:

Tenth Year Entertaining on the Steinway at the Gasparilla Inn