Notes and Rests

Musical note and rest values are not absolutely defined, but are proportional in duration to all other note and rest values. The whole note is the reference value, and the other notes are named (in American usage) in comparison; i.e., a quarter note is a quarter of the length of a whole note.

Note British name / American name Rest
Music-octwholenote.svg Large (Latin: Maxima) / Octuple whole note Music-octwholerest.svg
Music-quadwholenote.svg Long / Quadruple whole note Music-quadwholerest.svg
Music-doublewholenote.svg Breve / Double whole note Music-doublewholerest.svg
Music-wholenote.svg Semibreve / Whole note Music-wholerest.svg
Music-halfnote.svg Minim / Half note Music-halfrest.svg
Music-quarternote.svg Crotchet / Quarter note Music-quarterrest.svg
Music-eighthnote.svg Quaver / Eighth note
For notes of this length and shorter, the note
has the same number of flags (or hooks) as the rest has branches.
Music-sixteenthnote.svg Semiquaver / Sixteenth note Music-sixteenthrest.svg
Music-thirtysecondnote.svg Demisemiquaver / Thirty-second note Music-thirtysecondrest.svg
Sixtyfourth-note.svg Hemidemisemiquaver / Sixty-fourth note Music-sixtyfourthrest.svg
Music-hundredtwentyeighthnote.svg Semihemidemisemiquaver / Hundred twenty-eighth note Music-hundredtwentyeighthrest.svg
Semigarrapatea.svg Demisemihemidemisemiquaver / Two hundred fifty-sixth note Silencio de semigarrapatea.svg
Music-beam.svg Beamed notes
Beams connect eighth notes (quavers) and notes of shorter value, and are equivalent in value to flags. In metered music, beams reflect the rhythmic grouping of notes. They may also group short phrases of notes of the same value, regardless of the meter; this is more common in ametrical passages. In older printings of vocal music, beams are often only used when several notes are to be sung on one syllable of the text – melismatic singing; modern notation encourages the use of beaming in a consistent manner with instrumental engraving, and the presence of beams or flags no longer informs the singer. Today, due to the body of music in which traditional metric states are not always assumed, beaming is at the discretion of composers and arrangers, who often use irregular beams to emphasize a particular rhythmic pattern.
Music-dotnote.svg Dotted note
Placing a dot to the right of a notehead lengthens the note’s duration by one-half. Additional dots lengthen the previous dot instead of the original note, thus a note with one dot is one and one half its original value, a note with two dots is one and three quarters, a note with three dots is one and seven eighths, and so on. Rests can be dotted in the same manner as notes. In other words, n dots lengthen the note’s or rest’s original d duration to d × ( 2 − 2 − n ) {\displaystyle d\times (2-2^{-n})} d\times (2-2^{{-n}}).
Ghost note.png Ghost note
A note with a rhythmic value, but no discernible pitch when played. It is represented by an “X” for a note head instead of an oval.
Music-measurerest.svg Multi-measure rest
Indicates the number of measures in a resting part without a change in meter to conserve space and to simplify notation. Also called gathered rest or multi-bar rest.

Durations shorter than the 64th are rare but not unknown. 128th notes are used by many composers, including Mozart and Beethoven; 256th notes occur in works by Vivaldi, Mozart and Beethoven. An extreme case is the Toccata Grande Cromatica by early-19th-century American composer Anthony Philip Heinrich, which uses note values as short as 2,048ths; however, the context shows clearly that these notes have one beam more than intended, so they should really be 1,024th notes.


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