Basics in Music Notation #4: Time Values

Time is relative.  

Just like how time is different for us here on Earth from those speeding along in space, or how some people think their time is much more important than yours and are always late.  

In music, it's no different.  Some notes can get in and say what they need to and get out, but some will stick around for awhile and really make sure you got the point.

The previous articles in this chapter dealt with the pitches of notes.  Now we will discuss the duration or length of these note pitches or rests (lack of pitch)

Here is a chart of note duration and their respective rests:

As you can see, each note is twice the duration of the note below.  This is the same with the corresponding rest.  

A bar will be a selection of a staff contained between two vertical lines, known as bar lines.  

The chart demonstrates how many of each note or rest values can be crammed into a bar in 4/4 time.  It is the most common time signature, and so will be the only one we will deal with until later on.  

The names of the notes and rests also give a clue to how much space they can take up in one bar.  A half note will take up half of a bar of 4/4, and the other half can be filled by two quarter notes.  

They do try to make it simple for you when they can, those benevolent music gods.

What is that you say?  

That can't be all there is?  What if you wanted to play a note for 1 and 1/2 beats?

You funky devil, you.  Since you were so insistent, I'll let you in on the scoop.

To represent time values in between the values shown, a dot is placed after the note (or rest) to increase the length by one half of its original length:

Furthermore, a second dot increases the time value by half the value of the first dot:

Another method of increasing time values is using a tie to join two notes of the same pitch together.

This comes in handy when you need to extend the time value of a note across a bar line and into the next bar, or when extending from beat 2 to beat 3.  

We will go into detail about this later, but for organization when writing and for ease of reading, DO NOT JOIN BEATS 2 AND 3.  

Throwing a half note on beat two is forbidden.  It can make things messier real fast.  

Use a quarter note with a tie to another quarter note on beat three.

If the same line is used to join two notes of a different pitch, this is a phrase mark.

Totally different stuff we can talk about later.

For those who came in late, glad you could make it.  Since your time is so much more important than all of ours who came to this article at the beginning, then I guess none of this is that important to you.  

But seriously, do the homework.

Head over to the EXERCISES here and cover these topics:

Previous article in this chapter:

Basics in Music Notation #3: Ledger Lines and Note Stems

Next article in this chapter:

Basics in Music Notation #5: Accidentals and Distances Between Notes

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Lazer Monk

Hamilton, Ont