Grade One Music Theory - Lesson 4: Time Names of Notes - from Semiquavers to Semibreves
To show how long notes should be held for, we draw them with different shapes.
Most notes are made up of a note head 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:
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 often a crotchet lasts about one second.
Here are 4 crotchet Ds.
Notes which are twice as fast as crotchets are called quavers. They look like this:
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.
(To find out why there is only one sharp symbol, read Lesson 3 – Accidentals.
Listen to the crotchets and quavers together. The quavers here are joined together in groups called beams - this makes them easier to read. The rules about beaming are explained in Lesson 7 – Beaming.
Minims are twice as long as crotchets.
Minims look like this:
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:
Semibreves are twice as long as minims, or four times as long as crotchets. Semibreves look like this:
Here is a semibreve D in the bass clef:
Listent to the crotchets, minims, quavers and semibreves together:
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 of a crotchet.
A semiquaver looks like this:
We can also join two or more semiquavers together, like this:
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!
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!