Learn sheet music – Values of notes and pauses

  • How can I play a song if I have never heard it?
  • How can I play a song if I am not listening to it?
  • What are these musical notes? Which is the difference between one and another?

I am sure that anyone of you asked yourself these questions once in your life...
As a first step, we can say that in order to play a song you need to know how long are musical notes and pauses. In other words, you need to know their values in order to understand the rhythm of the song.

Let’s start by talking about the different musical notes that you may see around more often and how they are composed.
A musical note is composed by three elements: head, stem, tail.


The head of the musical note  is usually oval shaped; it can be fully colored or just be an external line.
This is the part that you will look at if you want to name the musical note.
Depending on  the interior part of the head it changes its value.
A white colored note's head (or an empty note's head) is longer than a black one (or a fully colored note, depending on your preferences).
For now we will put the fully colored note at the left side of the empty one and will also continue in this way later.

head4 head2


It is the line connected to the head of the note, or the line that connects the head and the tail of the musical note.
stem2 stem1


It is the curly thing attached to the stem. It is used for shorter notes, the more is the number of tails, shorter is the musical note. Since a fully colored note is put on the left side of an empty one, we will put a musical note with more tails at the left side of a musical note with less tails.
note tail 1/16 note tail 8
A musical note without tails is longer than a musical note with a tail.
Some musical notes don’t have tail nor stem at all. Those are the longer notes in the time scale order.
If we want to sort it out from the note with the shorter value to the note with the longer, we will have something like this:
musical note scale value
If you look at the sheet music you will notice that the share between notes changes depending on the kind of musical note. A longer note will have more space after of it than a short note.

Values of musical notes

Now it is almost time to give these notes an additional name other than Do Re Mi, C D E, 1 2 3. Depending on the lenght of the musical note, the name changes. Let’s start to give some numerical names in order to learn all the different values of musical notes.

In the table below you will see some buttons, when you click them you will hear a sample of the different musical notes.
They are divided by pauses of the same length. In this way you will be able to hear the difference of every note. Remember, the pause is always the same in every audio sample of this table but the musical notes change from row to row.
(You should be able to hear some sound samples, if there is something wrong please tell me - mickji@yahoo.com)

Value Note Wav Mp3 Ogg
1/64 1/64 note
1/32 1/32 note
1/16 1/16 note
1/8 1/8 note
1/4 1/4 note
or either
1/2 note
4/4 4/4 note

If you can hear the difference, the value of a shorter note is equal to half the lenght of the next note.
If we want to put the musical note on a pyramid of values we will have it as follows.
pyramid of note value

Values of pauses

Pauses follow the same path as musical notes except that they don’t have heads. So you have to remember all of them from their shape.
Luckily short pauses have tails like short notes, in this way you will only have to count the number of tails to know the fraction value.
This is the progression of the most common pauses that you may see around. They are ordered from the shorter pause to the longer.

pauses progressive scale value
As for the musical notes, pauses in the table that follows are divided by the same musical note. It is always a musical note with the value of 1/8 alternated by the pause that is wrote in the specific line.

Value Note Wav Mp3 Ogg
1/64 1/64 pausa
1/32 1/32 pause
1/16 1/16 pause
1/8 1/8 pause
1/4 1/4 pause
or either
1/2 pause
4/4 4/4 pause

Now that you know the values of the musical notes and the pauses you can either go back at the Page architecture, else continue with the time signature tutorial.
You can also use the Learn sheet music – guide list to travel through the whole tutorial.

If you liked the above article, you can give us a little tip on how to improve and suggest more things like what should be done next, which songs prepare and more, please visit the Contacts and Portfolio section to send an email!
Also, donations are very welcome. To keep the service going, to help pay the copyright fees, pay the rights of the people that helped in the process of song's arrangement and more please consider donate using the button below:

Banners added on this website by Autopilot.

Share it to stay musical


Make ocarine since 2010. Play the ocarina and record videos since 2011. Do exhibitions since 2012 ... And teach you since 2013, no I'm kidding. Do you want to take a step forward tabs? Learn today how to read sheet music ! https://mickji.altervista.org/learn-sheet-music-guide-list/

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.