|Instruction manual - Pizzicato 3.6.2||EN170 - Revision of 2013/05/29|
Notes and rests
The name and position of notes [Light] [Beginner] [Professional] [Notation] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro] [Drums and Percussion] [Guitar] [Choir] [Keyboard] [Soloist]
Exactly as the alphabet has 26 letters from A to Z, the musical alphabet includes 7 letters assigned to the notes:
C, D, E, F, G, A, B
In this lesson and the next ones, we will work on the basis of the treble clef. Here is the position of these 7 notes when a treble clef is placed at the beginning of the staff:
The name of the treble clef (also called G clef) comes from the following fact : the loop in the middle of this clef is centered around the second line of the staff, which is the line on which the G note is located.
What about the names of the lower and higher notes? The same names are used again. Higher than B, there is again C, D,... Lower than C, the names are B, A,... Here is the result for the higher notes:
When going even higher, the same names are used again. On the other hand, here is the result for the lower notes:
Why do we give identical names to notes located at different pitches? The reason will be found in sound vibration theory. We had seen that each note pitch corresponds to a specific number of air vibrations per second.
When you play a note producing for example 440 vibrations per second and you add to it another note vibrating exactly two times faster (producing then 880 vibrations per second), your ear will notice a strong similarity between the two notes. They are very similar while having different pitches. They are both in harmony. It is an observation that you can make by listening.
With Pizzicato, open the Ex006 file, located in the Examples folder. The score contains 2 staves of 4 measures:
During the first 2 measures, one of the flutes plays a little melody. In the last 2 measures, it plays it again but the upper flute plays at the same time the same melody with vibrations exactly the double of the other. Listen to the result. You will be able to hear that in the last 2 measures the melody keeps its original colour, while being reinforced by the other flute.
The same phenomenon is present when you play a note that vibrates two times slower (here with 220 vibrations per second). This ratio from double to simple plays a significant role in music.
When two notes vibrate with a speed ratio of 2, they have the same name. In the preceding example, the melody always starts with the note A as well for flute 1 and flute 2. Here are for example 3 notes named A and the speed of their vibrations:
The same principle is valid for the 6 other notes, the speeds being different from those indicated here but always in a ratio of 2.
Thus let us remember the basic rule: starting from C upwards, the following notes are named D, E, F, G, A and B, corresponding to increasingly fast vibrations. The next note corresponds to the double speed of the first C and is then called C again. The following note corresponds to the double speed of first D and is also called D, and so on. When going down below C, the speed of the next note is half of B and the note is called B again. Then it is A, and so on.
Rhythmic values of notes [Light] [Beginner] [Professional] [Notation] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro] [Drums and Percussion] [Guitar] [Choir] [Keyboard] [Soloist]
To show how long a note must be played, a system of rhythmic values is used, each one represented with a particular drawing of the note.
Let us start with the quarter note. We will use it as the basic duration to define the other durations.
The quarter note is drawn by a full rounded shape, attached to a small vertical line. This line is called the stem of the note. Here are examples at various pitches:
By placing a series of quarter notes on a staff, it means that they must be played all with the same duration, but this duration is not determined, because they can be played quickly or slowly. The tempo must first be defined. The tempo indicates the speed at which the quarter notes will be played. The tempo will indicate for example the number of quarter notes played in one minute. A tempo of 60 quarter notes per minute means that 60 quarter notes will be played in one minute, i.e. one per second. The tempo is often displayed by the drawing of a quarter note equal to a figure, such as for example:
which means that 120 quarter notes are played in one minute, i.e. 2 per second. The tempo is often indicated at the beginning of the score and it remains valid until the end, unless otherwise specified. The tempo is given as an indication, because nobody will count your notes to know if you played 119 or 121 quarter notes in one minute.
A measure always contains a well defined quantity of rhythmic values. The content of a measure is specified by a special symbol at the beginning of the score (called the time signature), just after the clef on the staff. The most current time signature is 4/4 (four four) :
We will further see the meaning of these two figures. Let us now remember that a measure with a 4/4 time signature must always contain the equivalent of 4 quarter notes.
This measure is also said to contain 4 beats and each beat is equivalent to a quarter note. A beat is thus a subdivision of a measure, in this case four equal parts of a quarter note each. One speaks about the first, second, third or fourth beat of the measure to refer to the 4 subdivisions of the measure.
The 4/4 time signature should only be displayed at the beginning of the score, on the first measure. It should not be placed again at each beginning of a staff, as opposed to the clef.
In the course and the rest of the manual, you will sometimes find examples where the time signature is not indicated. Without time signature indication, Pizzicato automatically considers that it is a 4/4 time signature. We will thus sometimes use this rule in the course. Know that this rule only applies in Pizzicato and that to be correct, a score must always indicate the time signature used.
Open the Ex007 file:
The upper line is a staff with only one line on which a rhythm is written. It is used to show you the 4 beats of the measure. Each beat is marked by a quarter note. There are 4 beats per measure, because we are in 4/4.
The tempo is shown: 60 quarter notes per minute, therefore one quarter note per second. The first flute measure contains a small rectangle which indicates that nothing is played in this measure. We will examine it further. Then you find a melody of 8 quarter notes distributed in the last 2 measures. There is well 4 quarter notes per measure, the total is correct.
Listen to the result. With a General MIDI (GM) system, you will be able to hear the upper line which marks the beginning of each beat with a percussion instrument. Listen to the regularity of these beats. The duration which separates them is each time one second (tempo of 60 quarter notes per minute).
Starting with the second measure, the flute notes are played at the same speed. The first quarter note starts on the first beat (together with the percussion sound) and stops just right before the second beat. Then the second quarter note starts on the second beat and so on up to the end. Listen several times to the example by reading again these paragraphs and be certain to understand exactly what happens in this example.
By having taken the quarter note as the base of a beat, we will now define the other rhythmic values based on it. Let us start with the longer values.
The half note is twice longer than the quarter note. Its duration is 2 beats. There can thus be 2 half notes in one 4/4 measure. The half note is displayed by a hollow rounded shape with a vertical line, the stem. Here is an example of a measure with 2 half notes:
The whole note is a rhythmic value equivalent to 4 quarter notes. It fills a full 4/4 measure all by itself. It is represented by a hollow rounded shape without a stem:
Open the Ex008 file: It contains 6 measures with whole notes, half notes and quarter notes:
The upper line shows you the beginning of each beat with a percussion instrument. Listen to the sound result. For the half notes and whole notes, count the number of beats they last, on the basis of the percussion beats.
Check the contents of each measure, you will find for each a total of 4 beats. The fourth measure for example contains two quarter notes (2 x 1 beat) and one half note (2 beats), which add up to 4 beats.
The eighth note is a rhythmic value equivalent to half a quarter note duration. Two eighth notes are then played within the duration of a quarter note. It is represented by a full rounded shape, with a stem terminated by a hook:
As an eighth note is worth half a beat, you need 8 of them to fill a 4/4 measure (the total duration of which must contain 4 beats).
The sixteenth note is a rhythmic value equivalent to the quarter of a quarter note. Four sixteenth notes are thus played within a quarter note duration. It is represented by a full rounded shape with a stem terminated by a double hook:
As an eighth note is worth a quarter of a beat, you need 16 of them to fill a 4/4 measure.
Open the Ex009 file. It contains 3 measures with quarter notes, eighth notes and sixteenth notes:
The upper line separates measures into 4 beats. Check the contents of each measure of the flute. You will always find a total of 4 beats. Here is the calculation for the first measure: 1 quarter note (1 beat) + 2 eighth notes (2 x 1/2 beat = 1 beat) + 1 quarter note (1 beat) + 4 sixteenth notes (4 x 1/4 beat = 1 beat) = 4 beats. Make the exercise yourself for the other measures.
Notice that the upper line quarter notes are aligned with the notes of the flute starting on each beat. By writing several staves played together, the position of the notes played at the same time are always aligned vertically.
Listen several times to the sound result while visually following the notes played. Notice in particular the groups of eighth notes: two eighth notes are played within the duration of a quarter note. In the same way, 4 sixteenth notes are played within the duration of a quarter note.
There is also rhythmic values faster than the eighth note. Here is for example the 32nd note, which is equivalent to the half duration of a sixteenth note:
It is written with 3 small hooks drawn on the stem. There are thus eight 32nd notes per beat and you need 32 of them to fill a whole 4/4 measure.
There is also the 64th note, which is worth half a 32nd note:
It is written with 4 small hooks drawn on the stem. There is thus 16 64th notes per beat and you need 64 of them to fill a whole 4/4 measure.
Finally, we have the 128th note, which is worth half a 64th note:
It is written with 5 small hooks drawn on the stem. There are thus 32 128th notes per beat and you need 128 of them to fill a whole 4/4 measure.
The 64th note and 128th notes are rather rare.
Open the Ex010 file. It shows an example alternating fast and slow rhythmic values:
Listen to the sound result. It becomes more difficult to follow! By calculating the total of beats present in each measure, you will find a total of 4 beats in each one.
In the manual, you will also find the double whole note. Here are three examples:
This rhythmic value is rather rare. It is worth the double of the whole note, i.e. the equivalent of 8 quarter notes. It is thus not possible to use it in a 4/4 measure, because this one can only contain 4 beats. We will see further how measures with more than 4 beats can be defined, which enables the use of the double whole notes.
Rests [Light] [Beginner] [Professional] [Notation] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro] [Drums and Percussion] [Guitar] [Choir] [Keyboard] [Soloist]
When an instrument plays a score, there are moments when it must not play. Music is a discourse of musical sentences interspersed with moments when the instrument does not say anything. These moments are called rests. Even if an instrument does not play, it must continue to count the beats of the measures to be able to start playing again at the same time than the other instruments of the orchestra, when rests are finished.
For each rhythmic value previously explained, there is a rest of equivalent duration. Each rest has a name and has a graphic symbol which represents it on the score. They are placed in the measure like the notes. The height where they are placed does not really matter, if it is not for an aesthetic aspect of the score. They are usually placed at middle height in the measure.
As a measure must always contain the equivalent of its total duration (4 beats in a 4/4 measure), if an instrument plays only during part of a measure, rests must be supplemented to complete the content of the measure.
The quarter rest is a rest which is worth the duration of a quarter note. Here is the symbol which represents it in a measure:
When an instrument finds this symbol in a measure, it knows that it must not play during one beat. Open the Ex011 file. It displays 4 measures with quarter notes and quarter rests:
Listen to the sound result. While the upper beats continue, the flute stops playing during the rests.
The whole rest and the half rest are worth respectively 4 and 2 quarter notes. The whole rest is equivalent to the whole note and the half rest is equivalent to the half note. Here are the graphic symbols:
They are both represented by a small black rectangle. The whole note is hung just below a line and the half rest is written on a line.
The whole rest has a specific characteristic. By convention, it has the ability to fill a complete measure, even if the measure contain more or less than 4 beats. It is used to fill the measure of an instrument which does not play at all. We will see further how you can have a 3/4 time signatures (measure which contains only 3 quarter notes). By convention, it is thus correct to place a whole rest to fill a 3 beats measure.
The eighth rest and the sixteenth rest correspond respectively to the eighth note and the sixteenth note. Their durations are respectively worth 1/2 and 1/4 of the duration of a quarter rest. Here are the graphic symbols representing them :
In the case of 4/4 measures, the contents of each measure must always add up the equivalent of 4 quarter, either in notes, or in rests, or in a mixture of both. Open the Ex012 file:
Listen how the computer plays these measures.
The 32nd rest, the 64th rest and the 128th rest correspond respectively to the 32nd note, the 64th note and the 128th note. Here are the symbols :
As for the eighth rest and sixteenth rest, these symbols have the same number of hooks than the note of equivalent duration.
We had seen that the double whole note is a note which lasts 8 quarter notes. Its equivalent rest is the double whole rest. It is represented by a black square:
Like the double whole note, the double whole rest is rather rare.
Summary [Light] [Beginner] [Professional] [Notation] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro] [Drums and Percussion] [Guitar] [Choir] [Keyboard] [Soloist]
Notes and rests are used to write on a staff what an instrument plays. The clef and the vertical position of notes on the staff indicate the pitch of the sounds to play. The measure, the rhythmic symbols and the rests describe exactly the time sequence used to play them.
The theoretical basis of musical notation are summarized in this lesson. To master the reading of a score, it is necessary to learn how to read the contents of a measure, without having to think about each note to know how long it should be played or to which instrument note it corresponds. It is a question of work and regular practice.