Duration is how long a note (or silence) lasts.

TL;DR (Overview)

  • Duration is how long a note (or silence) lasts.
  • Some common note values are:
    • Whole note (4 beats)
    • Half note (2 beats)
    • Quarter note (1 beat)
    • Eighth note (1/2 beat)
  • The beat in music is regular; rhythms are varied

Go to the “Extras” to check your understanding!

Note values

A duration is a length of time. In music, every note has a specific duration. Below is a chart of what we call “note values“. They’re arranged in a tree format so you can see how they relate to each other. The number next to each note indicates how many beats each one equals. (See below for an explanation of “beats”.)

Below is another chart showing the values of the most common notes in music.

Important: Notes followed by a “dot” – called “dotted notes” – are 1 and 1/2 as long as their original value. The dot adds half the value to a note. This concept is a bit hard to understand at the beginning, but really, all of this is just simple math. Like cutting up a cake for your friends on your birthday – whole cake, half cake, keep on cutting things in half, until you have evenly divided the cake up. But some friends like to eat more so you give them another half of a piece… Ok, I’m not helping. But this lesson is about the concept of duration itself. As long as. you get that “duration” means “how long a note (or silence) lasts”, it’s all good!-

Rhythm and Beat

When we put notes of different lengths together and play them, we create rhythms. Drummers, both traditional and modern, love to play different rhythms. Often, a rhythm is associated with a particular style of music, or a culture.

A beat, on the other hand, isn’t made up of notes. It’s a steady pulse that shows us where the notes should be played (or sung.) If you “feel the beat” sometimes it makes you want to dance.

The illustration below shows the difference between rhythm and beat.

Beat – is – con – stant
Ne – ver – chan – ges..


Here’s a video showing the difference between “rhythm” and “beat”. 

Do you know the various note values? Play this game to find out!


Duration (long or short), note value, rhythm, beat, whole note, half note, quarter note, eighth note