In music theory, a tie is a small, curved line which connects two notes of exactly the same pitch. The time values of tied notes are added together to make a longer note – you only play the note once.
Be careful not to confuse ties and slurs! A tie looks exactly like a slur – but a slur connects two notes of a different pitch and tells the player to play the two notes smoothly. The first example shows two tied Fs, the second example shows an F slurred to a G.
Ties are used for three reasons.
1. When a note has to be held across a bar line.
2. When the length of the note is difficult/impossible to express with a single note value. Here, the A is worth a count of 2 and a quarter beats.
3. To allow the beat to be clearly seen.
In 4/4 for example, the third beat (which is the secondary strong beat) should be easy to spot. Bar 1 is correct – by tying two quavers (8th notes), we can see where the third beat starts. Bar 2 uses the same overall note values, but it is difficult to see at first glance where the second strong beat of the bar is.
Ties are usually written on the opposite side of a musical note to its stem. In the examples that we just looked at, the F’s have their stems down, so the tie is placed above the notes. The As are stems up, so the tie is drawn below the notes.
An accidental placed on the first of two tied notes also applies to the second tied note, even if the two notes are separated by a bar line.
The first note in bar 2 is also a G sharp.
Sometimes you might see an accidental in brackets on the second note. This is called a “courtesy” accidental – it’s only there to make it clear what the note is supposed to be.
We don’t normally combine ties and beams on the same notes. Break the beam over two tied notes. Bar 1 is correct: the beam is broken so that the second tied note starts a new beamed group. Bar 2 is incorrect.
Hover your mouse over the stave or light bulb icon to reveal the answers (tap on mobile devices)
4. For each pair of notes, say if there is a tie or a slur.