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4. Time Names of Notes

Grade One Music Theory - Lesson 4: Time Names of Notes - from Semiquavers to Semibreves (UK Version)

Suitable for:  ABRSM Grade 1   Trinity Grade 1   GCSE   AP Music Theory Beginners 


Note Shapes

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:

Crotchet with stem up or thisCrotchet with stem down


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

A crotchet quarter note 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 quarter note 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 8th note 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.


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.

Crotchets and quavers




Minims half notes are twice as long as crotchets .

Minims look like this:

Minim with stem upor this Minim with stem down


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

Here are a minim B and  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 four times as long as crotchets . Semibreves look like this:

Semibreve - music theory


Here is a semibreve whole note D in the bass clef:



Listent to the crotchets (, minims half notes, 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 quarter note. So, a semiquaver is equal to a quarter of a crotchet. 

A semiquaver  looks like this:

Semiquaver with stem up or this Semiquaver with stem down


We can also join two or more semiquavers together, 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 double whole note, 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!