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Concepts in Music Appreciation 1

Note Duration


  • The length of time that a note is played is called its note duration, which is determined by the type of note.
  • The whole note has the longest note duration in modern music.
  • The half note has half the duration of a whole note.


  • Two half notes occupy the same amount of time as one whole note.
  • The quarter note is a fourth (or a quarter) of a whole note.
  • Four quarter notes occupy the same amount of time as one whole note. Two quarter notes equal the duration of a half note.


  • Notes smaller in duration than a quarter note have flags. Each flag halves the value of a note.
  • An eight note has one flag.
  • Therefore, two eight notes occupy the same amount of time as one quarter note.
  • A sixteenth note has two flags, having the value again.


  • Two sixteenth notes equal the duration of an eight note.
  • Four sixteenth notes occupy the same amount of time as one quarter note.
  • Although its possible to have notes with three or more flags, they are seldom used.


Rest Duration


  • Rests represent periods of silence in a measure.
  • Each type of rest shares a duration with a certain type of note
  • For example, both a quarter rest and a quarter note occupy the same amount of time.


  • While the note would make a sound, the rest is silent
  • To demonstrate this, let’s fill a measure of 4/4 time with quarter notes.
  • When played, all four notes sound.


  • A whole rest occupies the same amount of time as a whole note.
  • It is drawn as a box descending from the fourth staff line.
  • A half rest occupies the same amount of time as a half note.


  • It is drawn as a box ascending form the middle staff line.
  • Like notes, rests can have flags.
  • With one flag, an eight rest has the same duration as an eight note.
  • With two flags, a sixteenth rest has the same duration as a sixteenth note.


The Staff, Cleff and Ledger Lines


  • The staff is the foundation upon which notes are drawn
  • The modern staff comprises five lines and four spaces
  • Evert line or space on the staff represents a white key on the keyboard.


  • Clefs assign individual notes to certain lines or spaces
  • Two clefs are normally used: the Treble and Bass clefs
  • First, we will discuss the Treble Clef (also called the G Clef)
  • The staff line which the clef wraps around (shown in red) is known as G. Any note placed on this Ledger Lines will solve the dilemma.
  • A ledger line is a small line that extends the staff when we run out of room.
  • With the ledger line drawn, we can place the A.


  • Next, let’s discuss the Bass Clef (also called the F Clef)
  • The staff line in between the two dots of the clef is F.
  • We can now fill the rest of the staff with notes.
  • Finally, we will discuss the Grand Staff, a theoretical staff consisting of eleven lines.


Steps and Accidentals


  • A half step (or “semitone”) is the distance from one key on the keyboard to the next adjacent key.
  • A whole step (or “white stone” or simply “tone”) is the same distance as two half steps.
  • Key 1 to Key 3 is a whole step.


  • An accidental is a sign used to raise or lower the pitch of a note.
  • The first accidentals that we will discuss are the flat and the sharp.
  • The flat lowers a note by a half step while the sharp raises a note by a half step.


  • Whenever a certain pitch has multiple names, it is called an enharmonic spelling.


Generic Intervals


  • An interval measures the distance between two notes.
  • We will first discuss generic intervals, which are measured on the staff.

When two notes occupy the same line or space, they are first (or a prime) apart

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