Counting Notes and Rests
So, the notes show us how many beats or parts of a beat they last. 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). Look at this chart:
From the top you can see that a whole note (or rest) equals two half notes in duration. A half note (or rest) equals two quarter notes, etc. This will always be true.
But, 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 then that one quarter note equals one beat, the basic notes and rests would have the following number of beats:
- Quarter note and rest = 1 beat
- Half note and rest = 2 beats
- Whole note and rest = 4 beats. (The whole rest however, has “double duty”, it is worth a whole measure of silence, whatever the time signature says.)
Continuing to divide one beat (= quarter note) in smaller fractions we get:
- 2 eight notes = one beat
- 4 sixteenth notes = one beat
- 8 thirty-second notes = one beat
- 16 sixty-fourth notes = one beat
- 32 a-hundred-twenty-eight notes = one beat.