Rhythm: Note Values and Rests

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Rhythm is concerned with the duration or length in time of individual sounds. The relative lengths are indicated by a set of symbols called notes. Silence is similarly shown by symbols called rests.

The names given to the notes and rests refer to the fractional parts of a measure of common time. We’ll discuss common time in a moment. For now, take a look at the following notes and rests. Note particularly the way they look.

Occasionally in older music a double whole note is found, but
is rarely seen in today’s music. It will look like this:

Each note value or rest is equal to two of the next smallest value,
or one half the preceding value, like this:

Eighth notes and smaller values may be written separately, with
individual flags, or they may be grouped together under ligatures or beams.
(More on this under ‘manuscript writing’).

Rests of corresponding values are always written separately, meaning
they are not connected by beams (ligatures).

However, in practice several small rests seldom occur so their
total value will usually be shown by a larger rest.