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Note duration

One of the key advantages of staff notation over guitar tabs is that tabs can only dictate the notes that are supposed to be played, but without the help of staff notation, it can’t explain the timing of that melody.  Understanding note duration therefore is very crucial to learn and comprehend staff notation which has certain obvious advantages over guitar tabs.

The five note durations we need to learn are WHOLE, HALF, QUARTER, EIGHTH and SIXTEENTH. An easy way to understand this is to just remember that we keep dividing the duration of a note in half as we move from whole note. So in case of a whole note, the duration is 4 beats. For a half note its 2 (4/2=2), for a quarter note it is 1 (2/2=1), for an 8th note it is half a beat (1/2) and for 16th note, it is 1/4th of a beat (1/2 /2 = 1/4).

The signs are as following

See how the 8th note has one flag and the 16th has 2 flags on it. It is possible to have notes with 3 or more flags and you can guess those notes will have even shorter duration but they are rarely use in contemporary music.

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