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Sight-Reading: Ties Explained

I hope you’re enjoying our new sight-reading course!

As you become familiar with music notation you will notice that there are many different kinds of musical marks and symbols across the sheet music. Music notation, also called staff notation, is full of these symbols and marks because they are used to guide you along the right path, ensuring that the music is executed accurately.

If you’re just getting started on sight-reading, I suggest you go through every step of the course in detail and spend plenty of time practicing.

Here is some bonus information if you want to further your knowledge even more!

Let’s take a look at the musical mark called ties.


A tie is a curved line between the two notes of the same pitch, like this:


Tied notes are to be played as a single note with the total duration of the tied note values.  Basically, it is used to sustain the note duration.

In this example, we have a tie between two quarter notes.  A quarter note is played one beat at a time.  With the tie placed between the two quarter notes, you hold the note C for two beats long.

1 beat + 1 beat = 2 beats

Simple right?  But why would anyone write two quarter notes tied, instead of a half note?  A half note is played for two beats long, so it gives us the same duration (learn about the different kinds of note here).

The answer is that ties are used primarily for marking one of two situations:

1) The second note falling on the beat

When depicted as a half note it can sometimes be hard to see when the second beat falls. A tie acts as a visual guide to the beat so that sight-readers can see where the beat falls.

2) A note held over the bar line

When a note is sustained over the bar line into the next bar, a tie must be used to indicate the duration.

Tie 2

In this case, we have a quarter note tied to a whole note over a barline.  A whole note is 4 beats long.

1 beat + 4 beats = 5 beats

A good starting point for learning about ties and how to play them correctly is the beginner course “Get In Touch With Skoove” and play Bill Wither’s Lean On Me.

Bill Wither’s Lean On Me.

Have a listen to the song in our course, and notice the duration of tied notes.  While practicing the song, make sure to hold the tied notes all the way to the end of the 3rd and 5th bars.


Last but not least, there’s another curved line symbol that looks almost the same as a tie. 


This is called a slur.   Notice that the curved line connects two notes of different pitches.

It’s not the same as ties!

A slur indicates to play the notes smoothly without interruption or separation.  This technique is referred to as legato in musical terms.  

When you see a curved line, make sure to first identify if the notes are of the same pitch (tie) or different pitches (slur).

If you would like to see a blogpost about Slur and Legato technique, feel free to let us know via post comments.  There will be regular posts about tips and tricks on various topics so be sure to stay tuned!

I hope this post was helpful for you, please feel free to give us a feedback.

Happy Playing!!

Other articles about music notation:

  • How To Recognize Notes Quicker
  • How to understand piano Chords and Scales
  • Rest symbols and why silence in music is so important


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