1.2 Notes, rests and accidentals


Category: Elementary music theory | Tags: Notes, rests and accidentals

In music, a note (Latin: nota) is a symbol denoting a musical sound. In English usage a note is also the sound itself. A note is a sign used in musical notation to represent the relative duration and pitch of a sound.

In this chapter, you'll learn about the duration of the quarter note, half note, whole note, and eighth note. You'll also learn what rests are and there duration. After that, you'll learn about accidentals, such as sharps, flats, and the natural sign.

1. Notes


In musical notation, you can write down the duration of a note, the note value. This allows you to notate rhythms, the alternation of short and long notes. The length of a note is expressed in the number of beats a note lasts. There are notes of 1 beat, of 2 beats and 4 beats but also of a half beat or a quarter beat. The note values are always twice as long or twice as short in relation to each other.

kwart noot quarter note note played for one quarter of the duration of a whole note, one count.
halve noot half note note played for the value of two quarter notes, two counts.
hele noot whole note note played for the value of four quarter notes, four counts.
halvenootpunt dotted half note note played for the value of three quarter notes, three counts.
achtstenoot eighth note note played for half the value of a quarter note.
tie tie curved line connecting notes on the same line or space.
Notes are held down for the combined value of both notes.



How are multiple eighth notes notated?

note example

In Chapter 1.5 Articulation you learn more about the use of ties and slurs.

2. Rests


Rests are signs used to indicate silences. You don't play then, but you have to continue counting. Rests, like note values, have a certain duration. Like notes, there are rests of 1 beat, 2 beats, 4 beats and so on.

kwart rust quarter rest rest for the value of a quarter note.
halve rust half rest rest played for the value of a half note.
hele rust whole rest rest played for the value of a whole note. Kan ook betekenen: hele maat rust.
achtsterust eighth rest rest played for half the value of a quarter rest.


The duration of notes and rests are expressed in beats and not seconds. You say: a note lasts 1 beat and not a note lasts 1 second. Of course, a note of 1 beat can last a second, but also 2 seconds or 1.5 seconds or 0.8 seconds. It depends on how fast you play, on the tempo. You learn more about tempo in Chapter 1.7 Tempo.

3. Sharps and flats


This chapter provides an overview of the main theory from Note Reading chapter 6. Accidentals, where you learn about sharps and flats.

flat flat lowers a note a half step.
sharp sharp raises a note a half step.


Theory and practise

Learn more about sharps and flats and practise their names in Note Reading chapter 6. Accidentals.

Note Reading chapter 6. Accidentals

4. Accidentals


herstellingsteken natural sign cancels any previous accidental (a note after a natural is always a white key).
  accidental a sign placed before a note: flat, sharp or natural.
  key signature accidentals placed at the beginning of each staff and affects all of the notes of that name throughout the piece.
  accidentals sharps or flats not given in the key signature, occur during the piece.



The different accidentals.

note example