Every week we look at music scores for the songs we sing.  I am acutely aware that to many of you in the choirs these sheets may as well be in Chinese.   I know that you have got used to following your part (in a fashion), but I thought it might be helpful if I finally do what I promised to do some time back and produce this music note value paper.

The graphic (above) shows the most common type of note you will encounter and their base value.  You will have seen these notes written and endured my shouting, or counting out their time value.   It is the time value that is important and to determine what the value of each note is, you must know what time signature has been assigned.  Let me explain the value using the most common time signature we sing to and that’s 4/4.  In simple terms this means there are four beats to every bar.  This will mean that:

Whole Note (often called a semibreve) is worth four beats

Half Note (often called a minim) is worth two beats

Quarter Note (often called a crochet) is worth one beat

Eighth Note (often called a quaver) is worth half a beat

Sixteenth Note (often called a semi-quaver) is worth a quarter of a beat.

In simple terms this means:

I will, for now avoid the use of terms like demi-quavers and demi-semi quavers which are available, but rarely if ever in vocal work.


It is very important to remember that musical time is not measured in second and minutes.  The length of a crochet (quarter note) is determined by the composer/arranger.  Don’t worry about this right now


One other area when discuss note values is the use of ‘tied notes’  We come across these a lot and appear as a dot placed after the note in question that extends the lengeth of not to an additional 50% of its time value.  For example: A minim is worth two beats so a dotted minim is worth three beats (2 + 50% (1) = 3.

Dotted notes look like this:


I hope this helps and I want you to think of some of the songs we sing:

Both Sides Now is four beats to a bar

The Lord is my Shepherd is three beats to a bar

Rhythm of Life is written as four beats, but it is played so fast we count it as two – ONE TWO and TWO TWO and THREE TWO etc…..


Just to make you smile:

Where’s a tenor’s resonance?
A: Where his brain should be.

Q: What do you call ten baritones at the bottom of the ocean?
A: A good start.

Q: What is the definition of a mezzo soprano?
A: Just an alto with a soprano’s attitude

Q: What’s the difference between a soprano and the PLO?
A: You can negotiate with the PLO.

Q: How do you tell if a bass is actually dead?
A: Hold out some money

Q: Why do choirs travel so often?
A: Keeps assassins guessing.

Q: What’s the definition of an optimist?
A: A choral director with a mortgage.


Oh happy days