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Quarter Note, Eighth & Sixteenth Notes

Quarter Note

The quarter note, eighth and sixteenth notes are part 8 and 9 of a course on musical notation and music symbols. This note when played or sung is held for 1 beat of sound. Remember pitch duration? It looks like this. The British name for this note is a crotchet.

If you think of a whole note as a dollar, then it starts to make sense how these notes are named. There are 4 quarters in a dollar, thus 4 quarter notes are equal to one whole note.

The fancy term for this is "subdividing". If we keep cutting the notes in half we get a new rhythmic note or "subdivision".

Who knew there was all this math in music :^) Fear not… "once learned you'll never forget!"

NOTE: Also, just like the half note, these notes are also made up of a note head and stem. It never matters whether the stem is facing up or down, the note is always the same.

Composers decide to have them face up or down due to spacing on the page. Generally if the note is on or above the middle line of the staff the stem goes down. If the note is below the middle line of the staff, the stem goes up.


Eighth notes have a little flag and look like this:

An eighth note is worth half a beat or half of a quarter. Hence 1/8 is half of 1/4. It is called an eighth note because it is 1/8 of a whole note. The British name is a quaver.

We count eighth notes like this: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and. You might also see it written like this: 1+ 2+ 3+ 4+. Two eighth notes are equal to or are the same amount of time as one quarter. When subdividing into eighth notes we create a down beat and an up beat. The numbers (1,2,3,4,) are the down beat. The ("and" or the +) is the upbeat.

Tap your hand on your knee. When you hit your knee, count 1. As your hand comes off your knee, say "and" or +. Repeat this: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and. Make sense?

Eighth notes look like quarter notes except they have a flag. When 2 or more eighth notes are next to each other, they can be tied together with a beam like this:


A sixteenth note is half of an eighth note. It is 1/16 of a whole note. I apologize for not having a video on this yet. I will add one soon!

The british name for a sixteenth note is a semiquaver. They have two flags and look like this:

Just like the eight note, when more than one is tied together, we put a beam across them. Since there are two flags, we double beam them.

We count sixteenth notes like this: 1-e-and-a 2-e-and-a 3-e-and-a 4-e-and-a. There are 4 sixteenth notes in a quarter note. Funk music (a la Parliament Funk and the Red Hot Chili Peppers) has made the sixteenth note famous as it's at the heart of the groove ;0).

We can take this one step further and cut the sixteenth note in half and get a 32nd note which is blazing fast (listen to Eddie Van Halen play Eruption)! The chart below shows how everything is subdivided from the whole note all the way to the 32nd note.

Each group of music symbols is equal to 4 beats!

Ok, time for a rest……get it...rest!

Continue to parts 10 and 11, Quarter Rest and Family

Return to Top of Quarter Note and Eighth Note

Return to Musical Notation and Basic Music Theory

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