Lesson 5: Note Durations, Part 2

In the previous lesson you saw the relationships between different notes. For example, you learned that four quarter notes equal one whole note. You learned that two eighth notes equal one quarter note. You also learned that adding a dot to a note increases its time duration by one half of the original note value. For example, adding a dot to a quarter note results in a note that is the same length as a quarter note and an eighth note tied together. A tie is a slur (curved line) that joins two notes together so that they are played as one long note. So in the following example, the quarter note tied to the eighth is the same as if the quarter note had a dot after it, and the eighth note wasn't there at all:       You can see (and hear, if your browser has MIDI-playback capability) that the two 'F's are played as one long note. A slur differs from a tie in that the slur is applied to two notes of different pitch. A slur means to play all the notes within the slur without rearticulating. On a wind instrument like flute, clarinet, trumpet, etc., this means to play all slurred notes in one breath.

Adding a flag to a note makes a note half as long.

Remember the eighth note?  eighth note  Without the flag, it would look like a quarter note. By adding the flag it becomes a note of half that value - an eighth note. By adding another flag, it becomes half as long as an eighth note - a sixteenth note:   sixteenth note

It takes two sixteenth notes to equal one eighth note. It takes four sixteenth notes to equal one quarter note. How many sixteenth notes does it take to make one half note? Eight! One whole note? Sixteen!

Many times when two or more eighth notes are written side-by-side, the flag is replaced with a beam: beamed eighths These two beamed eighths are exactly the same as if the writer had written: eighth noteeighth note

Same thing for sixteenths: beamed sixteenths is the same as: sixteenth ntoesixteenth ntoe Using the beam in place of the flags simply makes it look a little "tidier", and a little easier for a performer to read. It also indicates beat duration, but we'll leave that for another lesson.

Concerning the direction of stems, it is important to know that sometimes stems can point upward, as in the examples above: If the note is below the middle line of the staff, the stem should point upward. But the stem should point downward if the note is above the middle line of the staff:   If the note is on the middle line, the stem may point either upward or downward.


For every note, there is a corresponding rest of the same length. For example, in many time signatures the whole note (whole note) is a note that gets four beats. in cases the whole rest also gets four beats:   whole rest   As you can see, it looks like a small black rectangle that hangs from the fourth line. It hangs from that line no matter which clef you use.

If the whole note gets four beats, the half note would get two beats, and so would the half rest:   half rest

Here are the "rest" of the rests, using our example of the whole note/rest getting four beats:

The quarter rest (1 beat):   quarter rest

The eighth rest ( beat):   eighth rest

The sixteenth rest ( beat):   sixteenth rest

Take a look at the following table. It shows the relationship between all of the notes and rests that you will use for the next several lessons*. Again, this table makes the assumption for now that the whole note gets 4 beats, which, as you will see in later lessons, is not always the case:

0.5 (1/2)
0.25 (1/4)

Since the note and rest values are all related to each other, if one value changes, they all change. For example, let us say that in a particular time signature the quarter note is worth two beats. In that situation the half note would be worth four beats, and the whole note would be eight. See how it works? Simple!

* You can continue to add flags to sixteenth notes and get progressively smaller note values: three flags = 32nd note; four flags = 64th note; five flags = 128th note (!)


To take the quiz, click "Quiz" above, then print the resulting page and complete it.

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