Recognize the Basics of Rhythm

 You may have noticed that certain notes have special shapes. These tell you how many beats you need to hold that note in a measure. A measure is indicated by a vertical line through the staff. The space between vertical staff lines (or a vertical line and the staff beginning or end) equals a single measure.[11] The following basic note rhythms express the main beats in a measure with numbers, same-beat broken rhythms with X’s, and separates beats with plus signs (+).

  • Sixteenth note: is held for a quarter of a beat (as in 1-x-x-x+2-x-x-x+3-x-x-x+4-x-x-x | 1-x-x-x…)
  • Eighth note (♪): is held for half a beat (as in 1-x+2-x+3-x+4-x | 1-x+2-x…)
  • Quarter note (♩): is held for 1 beat (as in 1+2+3+4 | 1+2…)
  • Half note: is held for 2 beats (as in 1-2+3-4 | 1-2 + 3-4…)
  • Whole note: is held for 4 beats (as in 1-2-3-4 | 1-2-3-4…)