Note Names and Rhythm
Along with melody and harmony, rhythm is one of the most important elements in music. A note is made up of a note head and a note stem. The only exception to this is a whole note, which does not contain a stem. A note head is seen either as an empty circle (whole or half notes) or as a black dot (all other notes). A note stem is a vertical line that is attached to the note head. If you see a single stem attached to a solid black note head you are looking at a quarter note. If that note head is empty or hollow, you are looking at a half note. Sometimes notes are connected or barred together by a single horizontal line; this notation is used to indicate eighth notes. You might also see a double horizontal line; this is used to indicate sixteenth notes. Still other notes have a wavy line that curves down the stem; this is called a flag. A single flag is used to signify one eighth note. A double flag is used to signify one sixteenth note. See FIGURE 3-14.
FIGURE 3-14: Notes Barred Together
Notice that individual eighth notes look exactly the same as quarter notes but with a flag attached. The individual sixteenth note also looks like the quarter note but with two flags attached.
The British use different names for notes. They call a whole note a semi-breve, a half note a minim, a quarter note a crochet, an eighth note a quaver, and a sixteenth note a semiquaver. Don't be confused by this, and unless you live in the United Kingdom, don't use these terms.
Table of Notes
Musical notation is based on mathematics. Notation follows the same rules as fractions. FIGURE 3-15 shows the division of notes.
FIGURE 3-15: Divisional Relationship of Notes
As you can see, notes divide into two equal parts. A whole note divides into two half notes, a half note divides into two quarter notes, a quarter note divides into two eighth notes, and an eighth note divides into two sixteenth notes. When making these divisions, a 1:2 ratio occurs between the whole and half note, the half and quarter note, the quarter and eighth note, and the eighth and sixteenth note. The pie charts in FIGURES 3-16 through
FIGURE 3-16: Divisional Foundation of Notes — Half Notes
FIGURE 3-17: Divisional Foundation of Notes — Quarter Notes
FIGURE 3-18: Divisional Foundation of Notes — Eighth Notes
FIGURE 3-19: Divisional Foundation of Notes — Sixteenth Notes
You can see that two half notes equal the whole pie, four quarter notes equal the whole pie, eight eighth notes equal the whole pie, and sixteen sixteenth notes equal the whole pie. This is the mathematical backbone of notation.
Rests function in exactly the same way as notes but with one key difference. Whereas a note signifies sound, a rest equals silence. A rest does not mean to pause. The music continues whether you're resting or not or whether there is sound or not. Think of a rest as a silent note.
FIGURE 3-20: Divisional Relationship of Rests
When resting, always follow the music the same as if you were playing. Every note has a corresponding rest and rests have the same relationship to one another as notes do. FIGURE 3-20 shows each type of rest as it is divided from whole to sixteenth.