Music Note Values

Types of Music Note Values

Grade 1

If you listen to music, you will often find that you are tapping your foot or nodding your head along to the music.
When you do this, you are tapping your foot to the beat of the music, also known as the pulse.

There are different notes that make up the pulse of a piece of music. The first one we will look at is called a Crotchet in the UK, or a Quarter Note in the USA. – Both names are acceptable in ABRSM and Trinity exams, and both are understand as being the same music note value.


The Crotchet or Quarter Note Value

The crotchet or quarter note looks like this:

Crotchet Note Value   Crotchet Note Value

The crotchet is made up of two parts:

Parts of the Crotchet Note

The stem can point up or down. Whether it points up or down will be explained in Note Names, so don’t worry about this just yet.

A crotchet or quarter note is normally equal to one beat in music.
While this is not always the case, different lengths of beats get quite complex, and will be explored in the later grades.

Here is what eight crotchets sound like when played one after another:

Beats and Notes - Crotchets

If an entire piece used just crotchets it would be very boring. So there are other notes that last longer or shorter. The next one we will explore is the Quaver or Eighth Note.


The Quaver or Eighth Note Value

The quaver (UK) or eighth note (US) looks like this:

Quaver Note Value   Quaver Note Value

Parts of a Music Note

The quaver looks different to a crotchet, and is has all the different parts of a music note.

Parts of a music note

Like the crotchet, the quaver has the stem and head, but it also has a flag. The flag is what distinguishes the quaver from the crotchet, and determines it’s length compared to notes like semiquavers (covered later in this lesson).
It can also be wrote with it’s stem pointing up or down.

Each Quaver is half the length of a crotchet and is therefore half a beat.

Here is what sixteen quavers (the same number of beats as the eight crotchets you heard before) sound like played one after another:

Quaver Note Value Length

To demonstrate the difference between quavers and crotchets, here is what eight quavers sound like when played at the same time as four crotchets:

Crotchet Beats and Quaver Notes


Minim/Half Note

The minim (UK) or half note (US) looks like this:

Minim Note Value   Minim Note Value

Like the crotchet, the minim is made up of two parts: the stem and the note head. However, whilst the crotchet has a black head, the minim has a white head. This is how it is distinguished from the crotchet.

Again, the minim can point up or down.

Each minim is twice the length of a crotchet and is worth two beats.

Here is what four minims (the same number of beats as eight crotchets) sound like played one after another:

Minim Note Value Length

To demonstrate the difference between the notes we have looked at so far, here is minims, crotchets and quavers all played at the same time:

Crotchet Beats and Minim Notes


Semiquaver/Sixteenth Note

The Semiquaver or Sixteenth note looks like this:

Semiquaver Note Value   Semiquaver Note Value

It looks similar to the quaver, however you’ll notice how it has two flags. The flags are what distinguish it from the quaver and determines it’s duration. It can point up or down.

A semiquaver a quarter of a beat. This makes it half the length of a quaver, and a quarter that of a crotchet.

Here is what 32 semiquavers (same length as eight crotchets) sound like played one after another

Semiquaver Note Value Length

Here is another recording of Minims, Crotchets, Quavers and Semi Quavers all sounding together, so you recognise the difference between the different notes:

Crotchet Beats and Semiquaver Notes


Semibreve/Whole Note

The final note you need to know about for grade 1 is the Semibreve (UK) or Whole Note (US). It looks like this:

Semibreve Note Value

Its different from other note values as it lacks a stem or flag, it is simply a head.

The semibreve/whole note value lasts four beats, and is the longest lasting note value you’ll need to know for some time.

Here is 2 semibreves played one after another (equal to the eight crotchets you heard at the start of the lesson):

Semibreve Note Value Length

Here is Semibreves, Minims, Crotchets and Quavers played at the same time. There is no semiquavers being played, as this will help make it easier for you to hear the semibreve, and get an idea about it’s length:

Crotchet Beats and Semibreve Notes


Final Thoughts

Practically all western music is organised into a pulse or beat.

Different music note values have different durations and can take up more or less than one beat.

All the types of beats and notes divide easily into each other.
Here is all of the music note values needed for now:

Music Note Values

Finally, here is the parts of a music note:

Parts of a music note