Privacy Policy Terms of Use

The Introduction of Rhythm: Note Duration and Value

A note's duration is its length in time. (Sound here) is a long note compared to (sound here). While note durations tend to be described in relative terms, like short and long, note values allow us to be more specific. We begin by introducing the whole note. They can compare a whole note to any whole thing, like a whole apple pie. Similar to the way that we can divide a pie into pieces, we can divide the duration of a whole note to name shorter notes. A note played half as long as a whole note is called a half note. We can divide the whole into quarters and get quarters notes. Continue this pattern to get eighth notes, sixteenth notes, and so forth.

It's important to note some inherent relationships. 4 quarter notes has the same duration as 2 half notes, which is the same as 1 whole note. 2 quarter notes are the same as 1 half note. Notice that this is just adding fractions. A quarter plus a quarter is a half. The Note Values Quiz will test you on these kinds of relationships.

Another way to represent note values is a ruler or a timeline. If the whole note fills a unit, then a half note will fill half a unit. It will take a second half note to complete that unit. Each quarter note will fill a quarter of the unit. Note that the length of the half note is equivalent to the length of 2 quarter notes. Using fractions again, one half equals a quarter plus a quarter.

In the Line Notes and Space Notes Lesson, you were introduced to the note head. This is the circular part of the note used to indicate pitch. The whole note consists of only a note head. Both the whole note and the half note have unfilled note heads. Their shape tends to differ slightly, with the half note head at a slight angle. The main difference between the half note and the whole note is that the half has a stem. The stem can either be down or up. The quarter note looks like a half note with a stem and note head, except the note head is filled in. 

If you're comfortable with the material in this video, you are ready to take the first Rhythm Quiz called Note Values.