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Quarter Note

reading music

A quarter note (also called a crotchet in British English) is a note in traditional Western music notation that is notated with a solid note head and a stem.

Here is a quarter note on a five-line staff:

When writing a quarter note (or any note with a stem), if it is below the middle line, the stem points up:

If the stem points up, it is drawn on the right side of the note head. If the stem points down, it appears on the left.

The value of a quarter note is half of a half note, or two eighth notes as in the following example:

A quarter note can also be broken down into four sixteenth notes:

… or any subdivision thereof. If you know simple arithmetic, you can understand music rhythm. For example, two sixteenth notes plus one eighth note equals a quarter note – two sixteenths make an eighth, and two eighths make a quarter.

A quarter note is not a beat

I’ve seen very many students – and even numerous music teachers – confuse quarter notes and beats. To set the record straight, a quarter note is not a beat.

Only in simple time signatures in which the lower number is 4 is each beat a quarter note.

In compound time signatures – those in which the upper number is a multiple of three: 6, 9 12 – the beat is not a quarter note, even if the bottom number is 4. Thus, in 6/4, 9/4 and 12/4 meter, the beat is a dotted half note (a total of three quarter notes).

Similarly, in all other time signatures, in which the bottom number is other than 4, the beat is not a quarter note.

If you wish to master reading music, be sure to check out my comprehensive course, How to Read Sheet Music!

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