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# Lesson 1: Note values, duration, and time signatures

Definitions and basic concepts. Created by All Star Orchestra.

## Want to join the conversation?

• I've always wanted to know exactly how the duration of the note is measured. How do people measure speed and know how fast or slow to go?
I'm starting off playing the violin and it's sometimes very hard to keep the tempo. Counting seconds is hard while focusing on other things.
• It will get easier as you play more. You'll get a feel for the tempos of pieces you play. One thing that would help you, I think, is a metronome. You can put in the tempo marking and it will count the beats for you. I've been playing violin and singing most of my life and it's definitely something that gets easier the more you do it (as with most things).
• in , how much does a whole note count for? i get confused with all of this...
• Whole Note = 2 Half notes/4 Quarter notes
Similar to this: 100= 50+50/ 25+25+25+25
• So, what is the bottom number in a time signature? I don't understand.
• Hi Clark,

The bottom number in a time signature represents the beat unit, or what is considered to be a beat within a measure while the top determines how many beats are in one bar. The bottom number will always be a power of two: 1 represents a whole-note, 2 represents a half-note, 4 represents a quarter-note, 8 represents an eighth-note and so on. Thus a time signature of 3/4 means that there are three quarter notes in a measure and a time signature of 12/16 means there are twelve sixteenth-notes in a measure.

I hope this helps,

Virtuoso
• It will get easier as you play more. You'll get a feel for the tempos of pieces you play. One thing that would help you, I think, is a metronome. You can put in the tempo marking and it will count the beats for you. I've been playing violin and singing most of my life and it's definitely something that gets easier the more you do it (as with most things).
• I want to take a music quiz, I have seen them in math but I can only find music vidios can someone direct me as to where to find that?
• www.musictheory.net is a great website for becoming more fluent in reading music. If you want to truly understand the theory though, I would suggest music lessons to you if you don't have them already. Piano arguably is the best instrument to get a good grasp of these concepts.
• Doing lots of it! Sightread whatever you can lay your hands on. Don't worry about getting it perfect, just sightread through the whole thing. Sometimes, when I practice the piano, I just open a hymnal to a random page and sightread whatever song I open to. Flashcards can also help if you're unfamiliar with the position of notes on the staff. Learn to recognize intervals quickly, as well as blocked and broken chords. Hope this helps!
• I don't get what the notes mean? whats the diffenets between a whole note and a eighth note, besides the way it looks?
• Notes are fractions, Izzy. A whole note is an integer, a whole number, half, quarter and eighth notes are fractions of the whole. Two half notes fit in a whole note (1 or 1/2+1/2). Four quarter notes fit into a whole note (1 or 1/4+1/4+1/4+1/4). Eight eighth notes fit into a whole note (1 or 1/8+1/8+1/8+1/8+1/8+1/8+1/8+1/8). You should be able to see that two quarter notes or four eighth notes fit into a half note, and that two eighth notes fit into a quarter note.

As far as how they are used in music, they represent rhythm. They tell you how fast or slow a note should be played, relative to the notes around it. A whole note is held for the amount of time it takes to play two half notes, four quarter notes, or eight eighth notes.
• What is time signature ?
• The numerator of a time signature specifies how many beats there are in a bar, and the denominator specifies what type of note gets one beat. For example, 3/4 indicates that there are three beats to a bar, and a quarter note is equal to one beat.