Sound and Silence in Music

A time for sound and silence

Time is measured in sound and silence, sound in notes and silence in rests.

whole note
4 crotchets
half note
2 crotchets
quarter note
1 crotchet
eighth note
1/2 of a crotchet
sixteenth note
1/4 of a crotchet
thirty-second note
1/8 of a crotchet
sixty-fourth note
1/16 of a crotchet

Total time is calculated by adding the notes and rests.

Two quavers equal a crotchet.

Four crotchets equal a semibreve.

Eight quavers equal a semibreve.

This music plays for 16 crotchets.

How long is 16 crotchets in seconds? See Tempo later in this book of Time.

Picture notes

If you are learning to read music for the first time, it might help to see the notes in pictures.

Every note begins with a note-head. The notehead is oval shaped.semibreve is an empty notehead
Notes shorter than a semibreve have a stem. A stem is a vertical line jutting up from the right or down from the left of the noteheadminim is a semibreve with a stem.
crotchet is a minim with a coloured notehead
quaver is a crotchet with a tail.
semiquaver is a crotchet with two tails.
demisemiquaver is a crotchet with three tails.
hemidemisemiquaver is a crotchet with four tails.

Introducing the beam

Clap your hands to the beat. Tails are beamed to the beat.

Here are some examples.

2 quavers beamed to a crotchet beat.
4 semiquavers beamed to a crotchet beat.
8 demisemiquavers beamed to a crotchet beat.In a crotchet beat two factors are important. Notes are beamed in multiples of 4. You can slice the beam (beat) in half.
16 hemidemisemiquavers beamed to a crotchet beat.

Here are some more complex patterns.

In these patterns the beat is equal to a crotchet, so you can count up to the value of a crotchet under every beam. Remember, we beam the beat.

Beam (beat) 1. Quaver – Semiquaver – Semiquaver
Beam (beat) 2. Semiquaver – Semiquaver – Quaver
Beam (beat) 3. Semiquaver – Quaver – Semiquaver