Music beams are lines that seemingly connect a series of various notes. Since they’re thick and horizontal (as opposed to thin and vertical), they’re more noticeable and intimidating to beginners. Rest assured that beams are nothing to fear – even when sheet music is plastered with them. Music beams actually make notation easier to read and play because they group similar notes. Notes of the same beat for example are grouped with a beam, and identifying these groups simplifies the process of reading and playing music notation.
The most commonly “beamed” notes are groups of eighth notes, sixteenth notes, or smaller note values — all the way down to sixty-fourth notes. If you remember how sixty fourth notes are written, then you’ll remember that they’re “flagged.” Having to read a lot of sixty fourth notes in a row becomes difficult when they don’t sit under a beam — especially since their flags can clutter up measures or entire sections of music.
Dotted notes are the exact opposite of flagged notes. The small flag that follows a note decreases that note’s duration by half, whereas a small dot that follows a note increases that note’s duration by half. A dotted half note would therefore become three quarter notes (one half note equals two quarter notes). A dotted quarter note would therefore become three eighth notes (one quarter note equals two eighth notes), and so on and so forth. Since it isn’t easy to see a dot on a line, dots are placed within the spaces of a staff.
Just like flagged notes however, dotted notes vary music. By itself, music can be quite static if it isn’t spiced up a bit with a few pauses, longer durations, or shortened stints. Flags and dots are just two tools we use to make music come alive with personality. We also have staccato notes to play with.
Staccato notes are indicated with a dot placed at their very tops or bottoms. When you run across a staccato note, you must play it with a short and crisp emphasis. Since the space between each is short and silent , staccato notes sound as though they’re spontaneous additives and they’ll liven up a song while filling the audience with anticipation.
They really lend variety to a song when played within a section that leads up to a legato section. Legato notes are played as though they’re connected. There are no distinguishable breaks between each pitch. But when played right after or right before a staccato section, the end result is an exciting combination that comes together in a pleasing way.