Lesson 3: Complex Note Values and Notation

Lesson 3: Complex Note Values and Notation

In my last blog post, I discussed the primary four note values and what they look like. For this third lesson, we’ll be taking a look at some of the more complex note values and how they are notated.
In the previous lesson, I listed the whole note as the longest of the four notes mentioned.
There is one note that is even longer, so it’s worth the value of two whole notes.
This note is called the double whole note (US) or the breve (UK). The double whole note looks like this:
Some variations of the double whole note may only have one line on either side of the note head instead of two as pictured above, or may have a more rectangular, box-like look, like this:
I also mentioned in my previous post that there are notes smaller than the eighth note, which was the smallest one from Lesson 2. You can make a note smaller by adding more flags to it, as shown below:
As the value of each note gets smaller, the US numerical name for it doubles (16 times 2 is 32, etc.), and the UK name becomes more and more of a mouthful…so many prefixes added to the front!
Theoretically, it’s possible to continue adding more flags to a note to make it even smaller than a 64th note. Generally speaking, though, most music does not contain note values beyond that.
Notes with flags are often grouped together in musical scores. Multiple flagged notes next to each other are not notated with an individual flag for each note. They are instead connected by a horizontal line across the stems called a beam. The principle, however, is the same: the more beams, the smaller the notes. Here are some examples:
See if you can draw some of these less common small note values, both with flags and beams. Bonus points if you can remember the order of prefixes in the UK version of each note’s name!
Look out for the next lesson, which will introduce how notes are placed to be read in musical scores, and don’t forget to subscribe to my mailing list for musical updates!