Beginner Music Theory tutorials
6. Note lengths
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So what about these notes? Can they like, last a different amount of time?

  1. Topics of discussion
  2. Note lengths explained

1. Topics of discussion

In this tutorial we will be discussing note lengths and going through the most common ones which you will find in your musical journeys. So, let's have some fun.

2. Note lengths explained

A note duration specifies how long a note is meant to be played in a song. This duration has its own measuring unit called a beat (hence why tempo is measured in beats per minute).

What exactly constitutes a single beat in a measure is directly related to the time signature of a song. In order to better understand note lengths though, we'll keep it simple in this tutorial and user a four quarter notes time signature in these examples. We will discuss time signatures and their impact on what constitutes a beat in a separate tutorial.

So, what are the most common note lengths you ask? Here they are:

Note Lengths

And in order to have an audio idea of how these sound like, here it is:

So, what exactly do we have here? Well, let's take them bar by bar:

  • the first bar contains a whole note, which lasts the whole bar (4 beats)
  • the second bar contains two half notes, each of which lasts 2 beats
  • the third bar contains four quarter notes, each of which lasts 1 beat
  • the fourth bar contains eight eighth notes, each of which lasts half a beat
  • the fifth bar contains 16 sixteenth notes, each of which lasts a quarter of a beat
  • the sixth bar contains 32 thirtysecond notes, each of which lasts an eighth of a beat
  • the seventh bar contains a whole note triad, which translates to three notes played at the same time, who all last the whole bar

As you may have already gathered, these lengths are somewhat related to each other. A whole note lasts the equivalent of 2 half notes4 quarter notes8 eighth notes and so on. A half note lasts the equivalent of two quarter notes4 eighth notes8 sixteenth notes and so on. A quarter note lasts the equivalent of 2 eighth notes4 sixteenth notes8 thirtysecond notes and so on.

And that about covers it for this tutorial. There are other notes which last even longer than a whole note or even shorter than a thirtysecond note, but they are really not that common and a bit out of scope for a beginner series. Next up, we're going to talk about rests. Or if you will, we'll actually going to talk about the sound...of silence. I'll see myself out. See you next time :) .

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