Reading music 3


all notes
These are the notes that appear on the staff. Each note has it’s own “time” value, meaning each note lasts a certain time, or takes up a certain amount of a measure. Each note has it’s “rest” equivalent too. Rests are silences in the music, and they too last certain times depending on the value of the rest note. Rests are just as important as regular notes.

quarter note/rest
This is a Quarter Note and Quarter Rest. It is usually the beat that most songs use to “count time”.

half note/rest
This is a Half Note and Half Rest. It’s value is twice that of a quarter note’s value.

whole note/rest
This is a Whole Note and Whole Rest. It’s value is twice of the half note’s value and four times that of a quarter note’s.

This is an Eighth Note and Eighth Rest. It’s value is half that of a quater note’s value. Two eighth’s make up one quarter note.

sixteenth note/rest
This is a Sixteenth Note and Sixteenth Rest. It’s value is half of an eighth’s value, and four times a quarter’s value. Two sixteenth’s make up one eighth, and four sixteenth’s make up one quarter.


This is a measure. It is a vertical line on the staff used to divide a piece of music into more manageable chunks. Depending on the time signature, each measure will hold a certain number of notes. A measure cannot hold more notes or beats than the time signature states, except for special cases.

Time Signatures

These are Time Signatures. They are used to determine “time”. The upper number means how many beats there are per measure, and the lower number means what value the beats are in. In 2/4 time, there are two beats per measure, with quarter notes as these two beats. In 3/4 time, there are three beats per measure, with quarter notes as each of the three beats, etc. There are many more time signatures.
The first beat of a measure is the “strong” beat, while all others are “weak” beats. This means that the first note of a measure will be played louder than all the other notes. This is done to “indicate” through volume when a new measure begins. In 4/4 time, the third beat is also a strong beat, but not as strong as the first beat.

Putting it all together

putting it together
We will use the example above to put all that we have just learned into practice. The example above is in treble clef, 4/4 time and four measures long. It is in the key of C major. 4/4 time means there are four beats per measure, each being a quarter note. In other words, there can fit four quarter notes in each measure, and that is exactly what happens in the first measure. All of the four quarter notes are on the “C” space of the staff, meaning four “C” notes lasting a quarter beat each play in the first measure. In the second measure there are two half notes on the “C” space of the staff. Since each half note equals two quarter notes, then having two half notes in a measure is equal to having four quarter notes in a measure. The half notes last twice as long as quarter notes, so the two “C” notes are left ringing more because of this. In the third measure we see much more activity. The first six notes are eighth notes, each on the “A” space of the staff. Since two eighth notes are equal to one quarter note, that means that the six eighth notes are equal two three quarter notes. Each eighth note lasts half as long as a quarter note, and that is why we must play twice as many eighths to equal three quarters. The last four notes are sixteenth notes on “A”. Four sixteenth notes equal on quarter note, which was the last quarter note missing from completing four quarter notes per measure like our 4/4 time signature indicated. Sixteenths are twice as quick as eighths, so all four must be played vey quickly in order to fit into the space of a quarter note. The last measure holds just one note, a whole note on the “F” space of the staff. A whole note equals four quarter notes, which is why we only need one whole note to fill up the whole measure. The “F” note being played here will last very long, equal to the duration of four quarter notes.

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