Monday, March 14, 2011

Notes and Rests

In this lesson we will be going into the musical notes and rests, what their symbols are and their values. 

A musical note can tell us how long it should be played; that is how many beats you should play a specific note for. Each note, whether it is one, two or four beats long, or if it is only half a beat, is represented by a different musical symbol. The following diagram shows us how the musical notes are written and the different beat lengths for each. 

I will go into more detail about the notes shown in the above diagram. The longest note in use today is the whole note and it looks like a white circle with no stem. This note is worth 4 beats. The next note is the dotted half note, which is worth 3 beats and is a white circle with a stem and a small dot after it. The half note is worth 2 beats and looks like a circle with a stem while the quarter note is a black circle with a stem. The eighth note and sixteenth note are black circles with a stem and tails. The eighth note only has one tail and is 1/2 a beat while the sixteenth note has 2 and is worth 1/4 beat. Familiarize yourself with these symbols and the beat lengths, they will help you be able to read sheet music and play the music on the piano.

When 2 or more notes with tails are placed one after the other, their tails are joined together with one or 2 bars. For example when we play 2 eighth notes one after the other, we join their tails together with a bar as shown in the image below.

The same principle for the 2 eighth notes also applies to when 2 sixteenth notes are followed one after the other as shown in the following image. Notice that there are 2 bars instead of 1 when 2 or more sixteenth notes are joined together.

The image below shows a whole note, half note, and quarter notes with a 4/4 time signature, and how they would be counted in a piece of music. There are 2 bars in the staff shown below. In the first bar there are 3 notes, 2 quarter notes and a half note while the second bar has a whole note. You can see numbers placed on top of each note. These numbers represent the beat or count of the note and tell you how long you are to hold the key on the piano down for.

I will go into a bit more detail. Let's say this staff is a treble staff and there is a treble clef before the time signature. Remember that each line or space represents a certain letter in the alphabet; A, B, C, D, E, F, or G. The first note is on the second line (going from bottom to top). This line on a treble staff represents the letter G. Now that you know the key you need to play on the piano, the next thing you need to figure out is how long you play that key.

You can see that we have a quarter note on the second line and we know a quarter note is played for 1 beat only. Play the G key on the piano and in your head count 1 then let the G key go. The second note on the diagram is also a quarter note but is on the space representing F. Play the F key, count 1 and let the key go. The third note is a half note and is on the line representing E. A half note goes on for 2 beats. This means you play the E key for 2 beats only. Now play the E key on the piano and in your head count 1, 2 then let the E key go. The fourth note is a whole note and is on the E key. This means you play the E key for 4 beats; that is hold the E key down and count 1,2,3,4 before letting the E key go.

Now start from the beginning by playing the first note, G, count 1 in your head, let the G key go and then play the F key and count 1 before letting the F key go. Next play the E key, count 1,2 then let the E key go. Lastly, play the E key again and this time count 1,2,3,4 and let the E key go. Repeat this and you will begin to remember the musical notes and how long to play each for.

Below is an image of the note hierarchy. In the diagram you can see that a whole note is worth the same as two half notes and 4 quarter notes while a half note is worth the same as two quarter notes and 4 eighth notes. A quarter note is worth the same as two eighth notes and 4 sixteenth notes, and so on. This means that if you have 2 quarter notes next to each other in a bar, they go on for 2 beats. And if you have 2 half notes next to each other, it means there is 4 beats and so on.

We will now go into musical rests. Rests are just silences in the music. When you come across a rest, it means that you do not play a note at all for a certain beat length. 

Below is an image of the different musical rests you may encounter in sheet music as well as their beat lengths. A whole rest is silence equivalent to the value of a whole note (4 beats) while a half rest is silence equivalent to the value of a half note (2 beats) and so on.

Musical notes and rests can be called different names in different languages. Below is a table of the notes and rests and their names in English, American, Italian, German and French. It might be a good idea to remember the names for each note and rest in English and American as they are the most commonly used and will also help you when attempting the quiz below.

Here is a quiz you can try after you go through this lesson. It covers everything you have just learned. Good luck and if you are having trouble with it please let me know and I will do my best to help you. 


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