A Quick Guide To The Four Different Parts Of A Music Note

parts of a music note

By now, you may have been reading about certain terms used to describe parts of a music note

Sometimes these words get thrown around without ever really being defined in a way that is understandable.

To help you out, we are going to go over four important terms right now that are commonly used to describe the four different parts of a music note. 

4 Different Parts Of A Music Note

1. The Notehead

2. The Stem

3. The Flag(s)

4. Barring

Notehead

The oval shape section of a music note is called the notehead. It can either be white (blank) or filled-in.  This depends on the note value.

The circular part of a music note can be placed on the lines and spaces of a music staff

Wherever the notehead is located tells us what the name of the note is that we need to play or sing.

Stem

The stem of a note is the straight line or “stick” attached to the notehead. It really has no real significance other than helping to identify the value of the note. 

For example, whole notes do not have a stem while half notes and quarter notes do.

The stems can either point up or down. This depends on how the noteheads are placed on the staff following the stem rule

If the notehead is located below the third line, the stems go up. If the notehead is placed on the third line or above, the stems go down.

The direction of the stem does not have any effect on the rhythmic value of the note. 

It doesn’t matter if the stem is going up or down, a half note will still receive two counts and a quarter note will always receive one count.

Flags

Eighth notes, sixteenth notes, thirty-second notes, and even sixty-fourth notes have a flag attached to the stem when only one note is present. 

You will only see this if there is only one single note by itself on the page followed by other note values. (This is pretty rare for thirty-second and sixty-fourth notes, but it can happen.)

  • Eighth notes = 1 flag
  • Sixteenth notes = 2 flags
  • 32nd notes = 3 flags
  • 64th notes = 4 flags

You could keep going with more flags, but not many people read notes beyond the value of a sixty-fourth note.

Again, these flags do not serve any purpose other than telling us the value of a single note by itself. It does not affect the rhythmic value of the note. 

You will still treat it the same way.

Barring

You will see notes barred together more often than notes with flags. The bar connects the stems of two or more notes together making it easier to read and count. 

Visually, it is much easier to read notes grouped together by bars than it is to read them individually with flags.

You will normally see notes barred together in groups of even numbers. 

For example, you will see 2 notes, 4 notes, 6 notes, or 8 notes all grouped together by barring.

The barring also has another function.  It can tell us the value of the note.

  • Eighth notes = 1 bar
  • Sixteenth notes = 2 bars
  • 32nd notes = 3 bars
  • 64th notes = 4 bars

Well, that’s all there is to it. The four different parts of a music note include the notehead, the stem, the flags and barring. 

It’s as simple as that.

If you are a beginner at reading music, you will want to focus only on the notehead and the stem. 

That is all you will really need to consider for a while, so don’t let all of this information overwhelm you right now.

Whatever your level of music reading is at this point, I hope this information gives you enough clarity to help you keep moving forward in your musical journey. 

Just don’t forget to enjoy the ride.


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6 thoughts on “A Quick Guide To The Four Different Parts Of A Music Note”

  1. John Noel Wheeler

    Everything here is worded pretty well except for your use of the word “barring”. The solid line(s) that connect(s) two or more of these notes is called a beam. Eighth notes (and shorter) are not barred, they are beamed. Other than that, it is a great page.

  2. Thank you for your vote of confidence. I appreciate your feedback. The terms “barred” and “beamed” mean the same thing and are used interchangeably in the music theory world. Everyone needs familiarity with both terms.

  3. Thank you for explaining why the notes are upside down.For example if the note head is placed above or below the 3rd line.This is basically my first week at understanding music for the flute.I learnt the bare minimum basics for piano some years ago.Both my beginners piano and flute book explain the notes extremely well but neither describe what an upside down note is!

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