Once we understand the concept of measure and beats, we can start reading music.

The duration of a sound is indicated using several symbols. Let’s start by getting to know the symbols with durations of one, two and four beats:

Name (USA) Name (England) Duration Symbol
Whole Note Semibreve 4 beats
Half Note Minim 2 beats
Quarter Note Crotchet 1 beat

Note the relationship of values between the different symbols:

Each whole note (semibreve):
is divided into two half notes (minim).
And each half note (minim)
is divided into two quarter notes (crotchet)
Thus, each symbol will have half the
value of the preceding shape.

Let's see a musical example using these symbols. The vertical lines (or bar lines) separate and group the notes into measures in order to facilitate reading (we can see three measures in this particular example). You can hear a percussive sound for each beat, and a flute playing the written notes. Note how a half note will take the duration of two percussive sounds (two beats), the quarter note will take just one beat, and the whole note will take four beats:

Translated by Dan Román, revised by Sue Talley.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
José Rodríguez Alvira.