Music Theory


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Music Theory - Notes and Rests Values



notes and rests valuesSimply put, notes and rests are drawings, or maps, of melody. Notes represent the duration and pitch of each sound. A rest indicates the length of a pause between sounds. 

The length of a note or rest is determined by the time signature indicated at the beginning of the staff. If the timing is three-four, for example, a whole note is held for four beats, which is indicated by the bottom number in the time signature.


If a whole note is held for four beats, then a double whole note is held for eight beats, a half note is held for two beats, a quarter note is held for one beat, and so on.


The same rule applies to rests: with three-four timing, the whole rest is held for four beats, a half rest is held for two, and so on.

Notes can have three parts, each with it’s own job. The notehead determines the sound and pitch that is played by where it is placed on the staff.

The stem is a line connected to a notehead, and generally runs up on notes until they reach the middle line of the staff, then downward as the notes run higher on the staff. The length of the stem is typically one octave, meaning it points to the position of the same note, but an octave higher or lower.

notes flagSince there are only three ways to draw a note, anything held for less that a quarter beat must have a flag. The more flags a note has, the shorter time it is played for. A quarter note with one flag is an eighth note, and is held for an eighth of the duration of a whole note.

For example, with three-four timing, an eighth note would be held for a half a beat, as a whole note would be held for four beats. A quarter note with two flags is a sixteenth note and would be held for an eighth of a beat.

Rests work exactly the same way. Each style of rest represents the length of a pause between notes. As with notes, the length of the rest is dependent upon the time signature on a piece of music. If a longer rest is needed, multiple rests in a row will be placed on the staff.


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