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More notes and rests

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Building on what you've seen in Notes and rests, it's time to meet a few more note and rest symbols that you will encounter.

Notes and rests

We have already met most of the main notes and rests from the semibreve to the semiquaver:

semibrevesemibreve rest
minimminim rest
crotchetcrotchet rest
quaverquaver rest
semiquaversemiquaver rest

Longer notes

Although we also know the semibreve as a "whole note", it sounds ("semi-") as though a semibreve is half of something.

In fact, it is - a semibreve is half the length of a breve, which is also known as a double whole note.

There are two ways of notating the breve. The first is like the semi-breve, except that it has two vertical lines either side of the note head, and the second symbol is a rectangular note head, again with the vertical lines extending a little above and below.

In keeping with all the vertical lines, the notation for a breve rest is a short, thick vertical line between lines 3 and 4 of the stave. Appropriately, it looks a bit like two semibreve rests stacked on top of each other.

brevebreve rest
breve (1)  or  breve (2)breve rest

Whole bar rests

Rests that fill an entire bar have a special notation. With just one exception, semibreve rests are used for a whole bar rest, regardless of the length of the bar. For example, a 3/4 bar has a total duration of three crotchets, but a rest lasting for an entire 3/4 bar uses a semibreve rest. Furthermore, a 6/4 bar has a duration of six crotchets - longer than a semibreve in duration - but if a rest lasting for an entire 6/4 bar is a semibreve rest.

Some whole bar rests in 3/4, Mozart's 'Sonata no. 2' for pianoSome whole bar rests in 3/4, Mozart's Sonata no. 2 for piano

The one exception to this rule is the time signature 4/2, which corresponds to a bar the same length as a breve. For this case, and this case only, the special breve rest is used. All longer and shorter bars use a semibreve rest to indicate a bar rest!

The first bar in the lower part contains a whole bar rest, in 4/2The first bar in the lower part contains a whole bar rest, in 4/2

Shorter notes

The breve is a very long note. At the other end of the scale, we can make notes even shorter than the semiquaver, starting with the demisemiquaver. The demisemiquaver is half the length of the semiquaver, and you can therefore fit two demisemiquavers into the duration of one semiquaver.

As you can fit thirty-two demisemiquavers into a semibreve, the alternative name for the demisemiquaver is (as you can probably guess), a 32nd note.

Remember that to form the semiquaver note and rest symbols we added an extra "flag" to a quaver's tail? Well we do exactly the same again to make the symbols for the demisemiquaver note and rest - we add an additional "flag" as shown below:

demisemiquaver note and rest
demisemiquaver rest
demisemiquaver subdivisions

Here are some demisemiquavers in a piece of music:

Can you spot the demisemiquavers in this music?Can you spot the demisemiquavers in this music?

Shorter and shorter

We can continue the same process indefinitely, making ever shorter note values with ever more flags. The next note and rest type formed in this way is called the hemidemisemiquaver (or 64th note), with four "flags" on its tail.

However, it can get very confusing to read all these different note values from different number of flags or beams, and between the demisemiquaver and the breve (and not forgetting triplets) we already have a very wide range of note values for virtually any context.

In practice then, we don't usually go shorter than the demisemiquaver!


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