Muze Online: lesson 3
Rhythmic note vales
The diagram below demonstrates the 5 most common note values used in musical notation, known
respectively as the: whole note, half note, quarter note, eight note, and sixteenth note. These note
each last for a certain length of time, with the whole note being the longest and the sixteenth note
being the shortest.
The notes in the diagram have been written out into bars so that you can see how many note values
fit within each bar (for the time being, our time signature is 4/4... more on this next week, but it
essentially tell us how many beats will fall within each bar depending on the piece of music). It may
be easiest to think of the note values as fractions; consider this: only one whole note is needed to fill
a bar, which can be thought of as 1/1. On the other hand, 16 sixteenth notes are needed to fill a bar
because they have a much shorter value; therefore, each sixteenth note may be thought of as 1/16.
Thinking in terms of fractions will help us later when we come across several different note values
used in one bar.
Any notes shorter than a quarter note should be beamed together if more than one of them occur in
succession (more on this next week). If they stand alone, then we do not use beams, and instead
draw tails which must always point to the right (see the second stave on the diagram).
As can be seen from the diagram, the middle line of the stave (the line where the B note is on the
treble clef) dictates whether the note stem should rise or fall from the note itself. If a note falls
below B, the stem should point upwards, if the note falls above B it should point downwards. If a
note is on the B line itself the stem can point up or down depending on musical context. These rules
regarding stems are simply in place to prevent us from using up too much space outside the stave
when writing music.
Exercise 1) copy out the note values, labelling them.
The second half of the diagram demonstrates the same note values, but in their rest forms (i.e.,
when there is no music playing but we still need to be counting the beats of the bar so that we know
when to start playing again). These are simply refereed to as ‘whole note rests’, ‘half note rests’ etc.
Exercise 2) copy out the rest values.
Exercise 3) listen to the audio clips which demonstrate how the note lengths compare. The clapping is based in 4/4 time (time signatures will be explained next lesson).