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Learn the Language of Music : Duration

As you look over a piece of music, you may notice that the notes to show a musician how long a note should ring. Some notes ring for a longer amount of time, and some ring for a shorter amount of time. This quality of sound is called duration. To show differences in duration, composers construct a note using different parts.



Head

A note head is placed on the staff to indicate the pitch. A note head looks like an egg and may be clear or may be dark in color.


Special note heads are written using different designs.


Stem

Some notes also include a stem, which is a line extending from the note head. Notes written within the staff have a standard stem length. Notes written above or below the staff have longer stems.


Flag

Other notes may include a flag, which is written from the end of the note stem. Some notes have one flag, but others may have two three or more. Composers will often connect the flags together when there are many of the same type of note in a row ; this is called beaming.


Whole Note

A whole note is written as a clear note head with no stem. A whole note has a duration of 4 beats. You can play a whole note by picking string number 1 on your guitar, and just as you strike the note, start counting from beat number 1.


Let the note continue to ring as you count 1,2,3,4 rest.


When you hit the rest count, the note is silenced. When you are playing a piece of music in common time, where there are 4 beats in a measure, a whole note fills a whole measure.


Half Note

A half note is written with a clear note head and a stem. A half note has a duration of 2 beats. Play a half note and let the note continue to ring as you count 1,2 rest. Since a half note is shorter in duration than a whole note, you may see more than one half note in a measure of music. In this situation, each half note will still ring for two beats, but you will not count the notes : 1,2,1,2, rest.


when you are playing a piece of music in common time, where there are 4 beats in a measure, a half note fills one half of the measure.


Quarter Note

A quarter note is written with a dark note head and a stem. a quarter note has a duration of 1 beat. If you see more than one quarter note in a measure of music, count the notes according to their position in the measure. Play this measure of quarter notes as you count 1,2,3,4,rest.


Eighth Note

an eight note is written with a dark note head, a stem , and a single flag. An eighth note has a duration of half of a beat. To better understand eighth notes, musicians visualized them in groups. Since an eighth note rings for half of a beat, then two eighth notes equals one beat.


So when composers write eighth notes, they will connect the flags together in order to better show the beat groups to a musician; this is called beaming. With the notes correctly beamed, a musician can see all of the main beats in a measure and the subdivisions of each beat.


Eighth notes create subdivisions of two , so as you play eighth notes, you are actually breaking one beat into two pieces. This is only an introduction to eighth notes; you will play eighth notes and learn about them

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