"Half-dotted" note, future option?

When writing by hand, or by cheating in Finale, I sometimes use a ±sign after a duration, signifying that one should add the quarter of a duration. It is very handy for any duration that can be divided in five. For example: A note filling a 5/8 bar would be a minim with this ±sign after it. I do not know if it has an official name in English – maybe a semi-dotted note? (That would resemble the “halvpunktert” in Norwegian.)

Have anyone else seen it or used it? I will try to find examples in literature other than my own.

Is this a (future) possibility?


I have heard about this, yes, and I believe a couple of different conventions have been used by composers in the 20th century. It’s not impossible that we will support this in the future, but it’s not something you should expect to see imminently.

This could make for a wonderful future addition. I often make use of a similar notation when sketching on paper. (Never heard the Norwegian term before, but I will definitely adopt it!) It makes sense (and would likely be readily understood by players) for filling bars in quintuple meter like Rune mentions. That said, with great power comes great responsibility – I would probably hate to see half-dotted notes crop up in other situations. Perhaps it could function as a special “whole bar note”, cf. whole bar rests?

There are also various things that have been used to indicate ‘whole bar note’ regardless of length of bar.

One composer I know uses a half-note, but with a flag on the stem - a merging of the half-note with an eighth. I’ve always thought this was a pretty elegant solution, but I have never seen anyone else pick up on this. Very helpful in 5/8!

Madame Renee Longy, of the Boston Music School same-name fame, and of Juilliard fame, invented a notation that I wish had caught on, though it never did. It was to put a colon to the right of a note, to mean five-fourths of the original value. That is, two dots, one exactly above the other.

Her reasoning was this: If having two dots horizontally to the right of a notepad means seven-fourths of the value, on the basis that the first dot represents half of the original value, and the second dot half of that, for a total of seven ‘portions,’ then having the second dot placed vertically from the first dot should mean subtracting the final fraction from the first one to result in Five ‘portions.’

I think it’s eminently sensible, easy to read, and easy to explain (even if I made it sound more complicated than it is). It’s too bad it didn’t catch on.


How does that work in conjunction with a chord? Playing Devil’s advocate for a second, if you had a chord that comprised two notes, a tone apart, with two dots vertically aligned, how would you know whether it was a dotted thing or a 4/5 thing? Bearing in mind that it’s quite normal for two notes a tone apart to share a dot, but not uncommon to see a dot for each note.

Shouldn’t the dot that means “subtracting” be on the left side of the note, not the right? Stacking things vertically doesn’t mean “subtracting” in any other field that I can think of.

My first thought was putting the second dot to the left of the first dot - but there’s an obvious problem with that :slight_smile:


Yeah, there’s a very obvious problem with that. How the heck do you tell the two dots apart? Of course you could put the second dot to the left of the note head but then then how do you know which dot is first and which is second?!?

No easy solution.

Pianoleo-- I never did ask her that question, and of course now she’s long gone.


You didn’t say they had to be the same size.

Not wishing to speak ill of the departed, having Googled her (never having heard of her or her school) her obit noted that she was famous for having taught Bernstein.

I don’t suppose she was scouring the streets for unknown talent and dragged young Lenny screaming and kicking into school to start his musical career - and he would probably have turned out pretty much the same whoever taught him, or even if nobody had taught him at all!