Confused about note values and rests? Here are your answers! In this music theory lesson for beginners you'll learn how to divide the notes, and how to understand exactly how long (or short) a note or rest can be!
A musical note can show us two things:
There are two commonly used ways of naming the different notes, (US and British). Here is a comparison:
Whole note = Semibreve
Half note = Minim
Quarter note = Crotchet
Eight note = Quaver
16th note = Semiquaver
32nd note = Demisemiquaver
64th note = Hemidemisemiquaver
128th note = Semihemidemisemiquaver (Phew!😆)
The names, as you can see, indicates that they are fractions. Each note value is a part of a whole note, and that also gives them their names:
In music there are also silences, and those are called rests. Each note value has a corresponding rest of the same length:
The different parts of a note show us how long or short the note is. The different parts are the head, the stem and the flag:
So, the notes show us how many beats or parts of a beat they last. But what is a beat?
Think of it as your heart beat. All music is based on beat, and the different notes and rests symbolize how many beats, or part of a beat, they last.
However- since notes and rests are fractions, the number of beats that a note value or rest lasts can actually change, depending on what note the beat itself represents!
What will never change are the relationships between the notes and rests themselves (and their names).
Let's take a look at this note values chart:
Courtesy of: Christophe Dang Ngoc Chan (cdang) / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)
As you start learning about music theory and playing the piano, it is usually enough to first of all understand that one beat is very often represented by a quarter note. (Just remember that this can change! Any note can be worth one beat.)
So, assuming that one quarter note equals one beat, the basic notes and rests would have the following number of beats:
Continuing to divide one beat (= quarter note) in smaller fractions we get:
Notes can be combined in many ways. Notes and rests are combined in patterns. These patterns are called rhythm.
Shorter note values are often grouped or beamed together, usually in groups lasting for one or two beats.
This makes it easier to read, and makes more sense when playing the music. Reading rhythm can be made easier by using rhythm syllables.
You can combine the basic note values, and rests, into rhythms in any way you like.
But there are more interesting notes to spice up the music with! Some of the most common are triplets, ties and dotted notes:
Three notes grouped together (with a "3" above like the example) are called triplets.
Usually you will see eight note triplets, but any note value can be combined as triplets.
This example is a quarter note triplet.
A simple rule of how many beats a triplet is worth is to take away one of the notes.
So three eight note triplets = two eight notes, three quarter triplets = two quarter notes, etc.
There are two ways you can adjust the duration of a note. One way is by using a tie.
Two (or more) notes with exactly the same pitch can be "tied" together, meaning that you play the note only once but keep it for the added length of all the notes that are combined.
Only notes can be tied like this, not rests.
Another way to make a note value longer is to use a dot after the note. The dot prolongs the note with half of its value.
So, for example a dotted half note is worth a half note + (half its value) a quarter note.
Both notes and rests can be dotted. And you can have double, and triple dots as well!! Every dot adds half the value of the last note added.