Quar­ter & Eighth notes

Join Rockschool’s Charlie Grif­fiths as he con­tin­ues his 14-part se­ries de­signed to up your mu­si­cal game, get you read­ing mu­sic and po­ten­tially earn­ing more! Read­ing Mu­sic Part 6

Guitar Techniques - - Lesson: Rockschool -

Also known as ‘crotch­ets’, quar­ter-notes are shown as a black dot with a sin­gle ver­ti­cal stem at­tached to the left or right, in the same con­fig­u­ra­tion as the let­ters p and d. The time sig­na­ture shown at the be­gin­ning of the stave has two num­bers, which are usu­ally 4/4. This tells you that each bar is made up of ‘four quar­ter-notes’. Th­ese four quar­ter notes are best re­garded as an even, re­peat­ing pulse of a song that you nat­u­rally tap your foot along to. This is some­times called the back­beat and is counted: ‘1 2 3 4’. You some­times hear mu­si­cians say “four to the bar” and this de­scribes quar­ter notes per­fectly.

Most mu­sic is a lot more in­ter­est­ing and com­pli­cated than re­peat­ing quar­ter-notes, so we can sub­di­vide those beats into fur­ther, smaller notes, which we can com­bine to write down any rhythm. By slic­ing each quar­ter­note into two, we can cre­ate eight eighth­notes. Eighth-notes take up ex­actly half the time as quar­ter-notes and can be counted ‘1& 2 & 3 & 4 &’. Eighth-notes are also called qua­vers. The English tend to say cro­chet and qua­ver, while Americans pre­fer quar­ter and eighth note - the mean­ings are the same.

A sin­gle eighth-note looks much like a quar­ter-note, ex­cept for a curly flag at­tached to the end of the stem. When two, three or four eighth-notes are next to each other, they are beamed to­gether with a hor­i­zon­tal line. When eighth eighth-notes are played in a row, they are typ­i­cally grouped into four and four.

Quar­ter-note rests are shown as ver­ti­cal squig­gles and eighth-notes rests look like a small num­ber 7. Rests take up ex­actly the same time as notes, so they are counted in ex­actly the same way. The only dif­fer­ence is the ab­sence of any sound. This shouldn’t mean that you do noth­ing how­ever; ‘play­ing’ the rests is just as im­por­tant a skill as play­ing the notes, as the ten­dency with in­ex­pe­ri­enced read­ers is to rush through the rests.

Notes can be ‘tied’ to­gether us­ing a hor­i­zon­tal curved line. The re­sult is that both notes are ‘glued’ to­gether to make a sin­gle,

Eighth-notes take up ex­actly half the time as quar­ter-notes and can be counted ‘1& 2 & 3 & 4 &’.

longer note. This usu­ally hap­pens in two places; firstly to cross the bar-line, and se­condly to cross the cen­tre of the bar. It is con­sid­ered bad prac­tice to place notes through the cen­tre line of a bar as it is much more di­gestible when pre­sented as two dis­tinct halves, as if there is an imag­i­nary bar-line be­tween beats 2 and 3.

Dots are another way of ex­tend­ing the value of a note. Plac­ing a small dot after the note in­creases the value by an ad­di­tional 50%. A dot­ted quar­ter-note is there­fore the same as a quar­ter-note, plus an eighth-note, or a grand to­tal of three eight-notes.

The fol­low­ing rhyth­mic ex­am­ples use a com­bi­na­tion of quar­ter-notes, eighth-notes, rests, ties and dots. The ex­er­cises are all played on the note C, which will sound some­what mo­not­o­nous; this is de­lib­er­ate, as it will en­able you to con­cen­trate fully on the rhyth­mic in­for­ma­tion with­out hav­ing to worry about chang­ing notes; we’ll com­bine th­ese skills in a fu­ture is­sue. Use a metronome or a drum ma­chine to en­sure that the ex­am­ples are played at a con­sis­tent tempo and feel free to in­crease or de­crease the sug­gested 60 bpm to suit your level.

Quar­ter and eighth notes are the ba­sis of most sim­ple mu­sic

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