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  1. 6/8 time
  2. A (note)
  3. Abc notation
  4. Accidental
  5. Articulation
  6. B (note)
  7. Bar
  8. Beam
  9. Braille Music
  10. Breath mark
  11. Canntaireachd
  12. Chord
  13. Cinquillo
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  15. Coda
  16. Copyist
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  19. Dotted note
  20. Double whole note
  21. Drum tablature
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  25. Fermata
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  35. GUIDO music notation
  36. Guido of Arezzo
  37. Halfnote
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  39. Hundred twenty-eighth note
  40. Italian musical terms used in English
  41. Kepatihan
  42. Key
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  44. Key signature
  45. Klavarskribo
  46. Leadsheet
  47. Ledger line
  48. Legato
  49. Letter notation
  50. Ligature
  51. Marcato
  52. Mensural notation
  53. Mensurstriche
  54. Metre
  55. Modern musical symbols
  56. Musical notation
  57. Musical scale
  58. Musical terminology
  59. Music engraving
  60. Music theory
  61. Nashville notation
  62. Natural sign
  63. Neume
  64. Note
  65. Note value
  66. Numbered musical notation
  67. Numerical sight-singing
  68. Octave
  69. Ornament
  70. Parsonscode
  71. Partbook
  72. Pizzicato
  73. Portamento
  74. Prolation
  75. Qinpu
  76. Quarter note
  77. Rastrum
  78. Rehearsal letter
  79. Repeat
  80. Rest
  81. Rhythm
  82. Rythmic mode
  83. Rhythmic notation
  84. Saptak
  85. Scientific pitch notation
  86. Shape note
  87. Sharp
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  89. Sixteenth note
  90. Sixty-fourth note
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  102. Thirty-second note
  103. Tie
  104. Time signature
  105. Time unit box system (TUBS)
  106. Tongan music notation
  107. Triple metre
  108. Tuplet
  109. Unfigured bass
  110. Virtual music score
  111. Vocal score
  112. Whole note
  113. Znamennoe singing

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Note value

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Parts of a note
Parts of a note

In music notation, a note value indicates the relative duration of a note, using the color or shape of the note head, the presence or absence of a stem, and the presence or absence of flags.

A rest indicates a silence of an equivalent duration.

Names and symbols

A note value does not stand for any absolute duration, but can only be understood in relation to other note values. In the table below, each symbol is exactly twice as long in duration as the symbol below it.


Variants of the breve
Variants of the breve

The breve appears in several different versions, as shown at right.

Sometimes the longa is used to indicate a very long note of indefinite duration, as at the end of a piece.

When a stem is present, it can go either up (from the right side of the note head) or down (from the left side, except in the case of the longa). In most cases, the stem goes down if the notehead is on the center line or above, and up otherwise. Any flags always go to the right of the stem.

Beamed notes
Beamed notes

When two or more notes which would normally have flags (eighth notes or shorter) appear successively, the flags may be replaced by beams, as shown at right. Notes are typically beamed only if they appear in the same beat within the bar.


A note value may be augmented by adding a dot after it. This dot adds the next lower note value, making it 1.5 times its original duration. Two dots add two lower note values, making a total of 1.75 times its original duration. The rare three dots make 1.875 the duration, and so on.

To divide a note value into three equal parts, or some other value than two, tuplets may be used. However, see swung note and notes inégales.


Gregorian chant

Although note heads of various shapes, and notes with and without stems appear in early Gregorian chant manuscripts, most scholars agree that these symbols do not indicate different durations, although the dot is used for augmentation. See neume.

In the 13th century, chant was sometimes performed according to rhythmic modes, roughly equivalent to meters; however, the note shapes still did not indicate duration in the same way as modern note values.

Mensural notation

Around 1250, Franco of Cologne invented different symbols for different durations, although the relation between different note values could vary; three was the most common ratio. Philippe de Vitry's treatise Ars nova (1320) described a system in which the ratios of different note values could be 2:1 or 3:1, with a system of mensural time signatures to distinguish between them.

This black mensural notation gave way to white mensural notation around 1450, in which all note values were written with white (outline) noteheads. In white notation the use of triplets was indicated by coloration, i.e. filling in the noteheads to make them black (or sometimes red). Both black and white notation periodically made use of ligatures, a holdover from the clivis and porrectus neumes used in chant.

Around 1600 the modern notational system was generally adopted, along with barlines and the practice of writing multipart music in scores rather than only individual parts. In the 17th century, however, old usages came up occasionally. Here's an example from 1692, by Marc-Antoine Charpentier:

Anachronistic use of white mensual notation in Te Deum by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704)


The British names go back at least to English renaissance music, and the terms of Latin origin had international currency at that time. Obviously, longa means 'long', and the rest mostly indicate relative shortness. Breve is from Latin brevis, 'short', minim is from minimus, 'very small', and quaver refers to the quivering effect of very fast notes. The elements semi-, demi- and hemi- mean 'half' in Latin, French and Greek respectively, while quasi- means 'almost'. The chain semantic shift whereby notes which were originally perceived as short came progressively to be long notes is interesting both linguistically and musically. However the crotchet is named after the shape of the note, from the Old French for a 'little hook', and it is possible to argue that the same is true of the minim, since the word is also used in palaeography to mean a vertical stroke in mediaeval handwriting.

The American names are loan translations of the German terms: when American orchestras were first established in the 19th century they were populated to a significant degree by German emigrants.

External links

  • On-line activity that counts musical notes
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