Dotting in the Baroque Era


The dot in Baroque music lengthens the durations of the note after it is placed by a variable amount.

The variable duration of the dot depends on the rhythmic freedom practiced by the baroque composer at all time and places.

Sometimes dots are placed after the notes which augments the note value, but in playing, eighth notes they are unequal. Dots after a quarter note act as an equivalent to the dotted eighth note. Eighth notes that follow a dotted quarter note would have a duration approximately equal to a sixteenth note.

Proper accuracy is often lacking in the notation of a dotted note. There can also be inconsistency in the notation of dotted notes.  A general rule of thumb is that the note following the dot is to be performed with greatest rapidity.

In slow pieces, the dot needs to be joined to its value with a diminuendo and slur to the following short note. In fast pieces, each note is detached from the other of the pair.

Types of Dotting

a) Standard Dotting

This occurs very frequently in Baroque convention. Dots are often smoothed down a little in slow movements, but for quick movements, they usually are sharpened up a little, particularly for a march-like energetic character.

b) Under Dotting

Under dotting may reduce its expressive quality by dotting to soften the rhythm lilting inequality.

For under dotting, dotted notes should be:

  1. Be moderately fast
  2. One pair to a beat
  3. Comes in a graceful rather than energetic character

Under dotting is equivalent to musically with lilting inequality (when equal notes are sharpened up). When a long series of dotted notes is notated in a moderate graceful piece, over dotting would be out of place and even standard dotting may be too energetic. Using under dotting is a better choice to soften the expression. Even some moderately slow under-dotting may sound too dragging as in with inequality.

c) Over Dotting

Over dotting heightens the expressive quality, and is notated unequally by dotting to the sharpest rhythms of vigorous inequality or beyond.

For over-dotting, dotted note should be:

  1. Be moderately slow or fast
  2. Be no longer than one pair to two rather slow beat
  3. Come in energetic rather than slow beat

As is with inequality, over-dotting for expression is equivalent to vigorous inequality. Rhythms are sharpened to a more pointed notation.

Conclusion for Variable Dotting

Even though standard dotting is far more common, both standard direction (dotted note first) and the reverse direction (dotted note second) can equally be used for over-dotting.

Lower speeds can be determined by the slowest duration of the melodic and rhythmic figure rather than the ‘integral’ turn of the melody.

The upper limit of the speed is set by the agitated effect. Over rapidity results in a practical impossibility.

In a moderate passage, a vigorous over-dotting would gain great effectiveness provided that tempo and suitability permit.

In a nutshell, these nuances are purely determined by the musical context such as tempo and character, as is the good taste of the baroque performer.





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