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The Trials And Tribulations Of The Devil's Instrument.

Notes Values and that First Song

Alright, we know what those notes are now, we just need to know how long to play them for. Today, we’ll be discussing note values and time signatures. What they are, how to read them and how to play them. Then we’ll start with an actual song.

What exactly is a note value? It’s the duration, or the amount of time that we play a note. And that’s determined by several things, the first being the beat, or tempo, of the piece of music being played. You know what a beat is, it’s that pulse that you tap your foot too during a song. It can be slow or fast, but it’s always steady.

The time signature is a sign at the beginning of the piece that tells us how many beats or pulses there are in a measure. The measure is the space in between two lines on the staff. Most of the time it looks like a fraction, like 4/4 or 3/4. The top number in the fraction tells us how many beats per measure there are. Today, we’re just going to look at the time signature of 4/4. It’s also called common time, and looks like a C in the staff and it tells us there are four beats per measure.

All the note values in a given measure must add up to four in 4/4 or common time. So let’s get started;

The Whole Note.


The whole note just looks like a empty circle inside the staff. It gets four beats. We start by playing the C note on beat one and holding that note through beat four.

The Whole Rest.


The whole rest looks like an upside hat hanging on the line. It also gets four beats, but those are four beats of rest, we don’t play anything for a whole rest.

The Half Note.

The Half note looks like an empty circle with a line coming off one side of it. That line is called a stem. Half notes get half the beats of a whole note, so only two beats. So for this measure, you would play the C note on beat one and beat three.

The Half Rest.

The Half rest looks like a hat sitting on top of the line. It also gets two beats, but again, those are two beats of rest.

The Quarter Note.

The quarter note is a filled in circle with a stem coming off it. Each note gets one beat. So here, we play the C note on beat one, two, three and four.

The Quarter Rest.

The quarter note rest gets the name number of beats as the quarter note.

We can mix and match any of these note values within a measure as long as they add up to four beats. You can have a half note with a half rest or a half note with two quarter notes. Let’s look at a song, Ode To Joy.

If you look closely, each measure has four beats in it. Practice playing and counting this song and most of all, have fun. Amaze your family and friends. Congratulations, you’re reading and playing music.

Written by

As a private guitar instructor, and as a performing musician, I’ve come across all types of guitar players. Some good, some bad, and some just plain out there phenomenal. Always curious into what makes some people more adept at playing guitar than others, I’ve done a lot of research into what it takes to be a great player. As I pass this information on, keep on mind that there’s no secret ingredient, no fast and sure way to get instantly better, and no substitute for putting in the time on the guitar.

1 Comments to “Notes Values and that First Song”

  1. Oakden says:

    I subscribed to your rss 🙂

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