Teach Yourself Music Theory – 7.) Rhythmic Values of Notes and Rests

When someone says that a particular piece of music has a nice rhythm, they are referring to the pattern of durations of pitch and silences. Pitch as to the notes played, and silence as the rests telling the performer not to do anything.

Each note value has a corresponding rest value of the same name as well as duration:

In a simple meter of 4/4, the quarter/crotchet is the basic beat unit. When you combine two together, you get a half/minim duration value of two beat units. That can be combined even further into whole/semibreve value, and EVEN LARGER into a breve. Understand that only the whole/semibreve is the largest unit that can fit within the meter of a 4/4 time signature measure.

Similarly, the durations can be divided into smaller units. Dividing a quarter/crotchet in half gets an eighth/quaver. Further in half gets a sixteenth/semiquaver. And so on, and so on…

Notice how as the duration values of the notes progressively get smaller, the more flags and beams (wavy lines and connecting horizontal bars, respectively) there are attached to the stem (vertical line) of the note.

Finally, take a look at the measure below:

See how that there is a dot next to the note head? The dot tells that the duration is 1.5x times that of the original. A double-dot tells that it 1.75x times in durational length.


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Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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