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Grade One Music Theory - Lesson 4: Times Names of Notes - from Semiquavers to Semibreves

Click here to see this page with the note names in American English


music theory - note values from the semiquaver to the semibreve

Note Shapes

To show how long notes should be held for, we draw them with different shapes.

Most notes are made up of a notehead and a stem (apart from semibreves, which have no stem).


The most basic and most common length of note is the crotchet, which looks like this:

Crotchet with stem up or thisCrotchet with stem down


It’s a black note-head on a basic stem, (or stick).

A crotchet usually represents one beat.

As musicians, we can decide for ourselves exactly how long a beat should be, but a common duration for a crotchet is about one second.

Here are 4 crotchet Ds.

Crotchets - music theory



Notes which are twice as fast as crotchets are called quavers. They look like this:

Quaver with stem upor this Quaver with stem down


Notice that although the quaver has a black note-head like the crotchet, it also has a small tail on the right side of its stem.

Here are 8 quavers, F sharps and Gs.

Quavers - music theory

(To find out why there is only one sharp symbol, read Lesson 3 – Accidentals, and to find out how to group these notes with beams, read Lesson 7 – Beaming)

A quaver represents half a beat.


Listen to the crotchets and quavers together:

Crotchets and quavers




Minims are twice as long as crotchets, or if you prefer, minims last for 2 beats.

Minims look like this:

Minim with stem upor this Minim with stem down


Notice that minims look like crotchets, but their heads are white, not black.

Here is a minim B and a minim A, in the bass clef:




Listen to the crotchets, quavers and minims together:

Quavers, crotchets and minims



Semibreves are twice as long as minims, or if you prefer, semibreves last for 4 beats. Semibreves look like this:

Semibreve - music theory


Because semibreves don’t have stems, there’s only one way to draw them.

Here is a semibreve D in the bass clef:



Listent to the crotchets, minims, quavers and semibreves together:


Quavers, crotchets, minims and semibreves



Semiquavers are twice as fast as quavers, or 4 times faster than crotchets. Four semiquavers take up the same amount of time as 1 crotchet. So, a semiquaver is equal to a quarter (fourth) of a beat. 

A semiquaver looks like this:

Semiquaver with stem up or this Semiquaver with stem down


We can join together two or more semiquavers like this:

Beamed (joined) semiquavers - music theory

Semiquavers look like quavers, but they have two tails where quavers have one.

Here are some semiquavers in action:



And here is the finished product - from semibreves to semiquavers!


Semiquavers, quavers, crotchets, minims and semibreves


Why are Semibreves called Semibreves?

There is another note, called a breve, which is worth two semibreves. Breves aren't used very much these days, so you don't need to know about them for your grade one music theory exam. A long time ago, breves and semibreves were quite short notes. Over time, they have become longer and longer, and so today we think of semibreves as very long notes, but it wasn't always the case! 


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