What Does Note Value Mean In Music?

In music, the term note value is referring to the duration of a note, or in simple terms, how long a note is held. 

We know that music notes tell us what pitch to play according to their placement on the staff. But, did you know they can also tell us how long to hold that pitch?

This is a great starting point for learning rhythm.  What we need to remember most is that notes have a certain “look” that tells us exactly how long to hold them.

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Let’s take a peek at a few of our most common note values:

note value

How long do we hold them?

Whole Note = 4 counts

Half Note = 2 counts

Quarter Note = 1 count

Notice how the whole note is an oval, not filled in, and without a stem. When we see this, we automatically know that we must hold it for a total of four counts. 

This means while you are playing the note, you count “1-2-3-4” in your head to a steady beat to know you are playing it correctly.

The half note is also a non-filled oval, but unlike the whole note, it does have a stem. This tells us to count “1-2” in your head whenever you find it.

Last but not least is the quarter note. It is like a half note, but the note head is filled in. 

In order to play this, we only need to give it a total of one count.

Remember, how the note “looks” tells us the note value at a glance. Its visual appearance indicates how long we should play the note. 

Take a look at a few notes this week and see if you can identify the three most common notes; the whole note, half note, and the quarter note.

You may find a few more that you are unfamiliar with at this point. 

That’s okay. Come back here often to learn about many more!

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3 thoughts on “What Does Note Value Mean In Music?”

  1. I copied your chart to give my middle school students to study. Thanks for laying it out so easily. I hope it help cements it in their mind. Thanks again!

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