Music Theory


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Music Theory - Beats and Measures


The easiest aspect of any piece of music to understand is the beat. This is when you tap your foot or finger in time whenever you hear music. It’s a pulse that is regulated throughout a song until it ends. It is the same as your heartbeat. To fully understand this, you will need to learn about the basic kinds of notes and their values, and how it is associated with measures.

Measures are segments that divide groups of notes on the composition; wherein, measure lines are used to make it distinct. The number of beats per measure is defined by the time signature. Measures are basically used to make the music more lucid and rhythmic.

Kinds of Notes:

  • Whole Note (semibreve) - A whole note lasts for 4 beats in common time (4/4 time signature).
  • Half Note (minim) - A half note lasts for 2 beats.
  • Quarter Note (crotchet) - A quarter note lasts for 1 beat.
  • Eighth Note (quaver) - An eighth note lasts for half of the quarter note.

Everything is basically related to the whole note. Two half notes equal to one whole note, four quarter notes equal to one whole note, and so on. While those are the basic values of notes, there are modifiers that can make it last longer – these are dots beside the note head (not to be confused with the staccato mark which is placed on top) and tuplets.

A dotted note will have an increase in its value depending on the note. If a half note is dotted, it will equal to 3 beats instead of 2. Basically, a dot will add half the original amount of the note it is placed beside to. There are uncommon instances where composers use 2 dots, and the rare occasions of 3 dots.

Tuplets, on the other hand, do the same in terms of changing a note’s value; wherein, the triplets are the most common of the tuplet family. As mentioned earlier, 2 quarter notes equal 1 half note, but when a triplet is used, 3 quarter notes will equal to 1 half note instead. It basically reduces note values depending once again on the original note value. To mark notes as a tuplet, a beam is used above the particular notes with a number to define what kind of tuplet it is. In the case of a triplet, the number 3 is used.

Writting it Down:

When writing the whole note, it is unlikelier to get problems with it compared to the other notes since it is just a note head. For the other notes, a stem for each and every one of them is required. Also, for notes below the quarter note, flags are required to make them distinct and they can be connected with each other through beams.

On the matter of writing, the stems of the notes up or down will depend on where it is placed on the staff. When the notes are placed on the ‘b’ note or third line of the staff, the stems should be written upwardly only when it is with other notes whose stems are also up, but when there are none, write them downwardly.


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