Music note values in piano music explained

Are you struggling with music note values while playing the piano? We’re here to help!

Amongst other things, we will in this article help you make sense of:

  • The different types of music note values that exist
  • How to identify different note values
  • Examples on all notes, ranging from whole notes to 1024th notes
Music note values in piano music explained

Notated music is highly dependent on the correct understanding and usage of note values. They are an essential aspect of providing any piece of music with the necessary rhythm and structure.

Why are music note values important?

They are your guide when playing music! Therefore, understanding music note values for piano music is invaluable to playing correctly, gracefully, and with style. With the help of proper knowledge of music note values, you know for how long to play each individual note.

Which music note values are used in piano music?

Not all notes are created equal.

What this means is that there are different types of notes, which are differentiated by their duration. In order to play musical pieces properly, it is necessary to use notes with varying durations, or else the playing would simply sound dull and uninteresting.

After all, it is not just the melody of a given piece that makes it interesting and fun to listen to, but also the rhythm with which different sequences are played. The way this works is by indicating the length of each note, which also is identifiable by its design.

In order to remember the different music note values, we have created the following list for you and included an example for all music note values:

Whole notes

Whole notes are notated as hollow ovals without a stem, and they cover an entire 4-beat measure.

Whole-note-explained-using-Yiruma_s-River-Flows-in-You
Whole notes explained using Yiruma’s River Flows in You

Half notes

Half notes are notated as hollow ovals with a straight flagless stem and cover half of a whole note.

Half note explained using Taylor Swift's Gold Rush
Half note explained using Taylor Swift’s Gold Rush

Quarter notes

Quarter notes are notated with a filled-in oval and a straight flagless stem and cover one-quarter of a whole note.

quarter-notes-explained-using-skyfall-by-adele
Quarter notes explained using Skyfall by Adele

Eighth note

Eighth notes are notated with a filled-in oval, a straight stem, one beam or flag, and cover 1/8th of a whole note.

Eighth note explained using Agatha All Along by Wandavision
Eighth note explained using Agatha All Along by Wandavision

Sixteenth notes

Sixteenth notes (also called “semiquaver”) are notated with a filled-in oval, a straight stem, two beams or flags, and cover 1/16th of a whole note.

16th-notes-explained-using-the-flight-of-the-bumblebee-by-nikolai-rimsky-korsakov
16th notes explained using the Flight of the Bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov

Thirty-second notes

Thirty-second (also called “demisemiquaver”) notes are notated with a filled-in oval, a straight stem, three flags or beams, and cover 1/32nd of a whole note.

Let’s for example look at Jarrod Radnich’s Lord of the Rings arrangement, in which we see the following:

32nd notes explained with Jarrod Radnich's Lord of the Rings arrangement
32nd notes explained with Jarrod Radnich’s Lord of the Rings arrangement

Sixty-fourth notes

Sixty-fourth notes (also called “hemidemisemiquaver”) are notated with a filled-in oval, a straight stem, four beams or flags, and cover 1/64th of a whole note.

Sixty-fourth note explained using Béla Bartók's Rhapsody (Op. 1), Sz. 26
64th notes explained using Béla Bartók’s Rhapsody (Op. 1), Sz. 26

Hundred twenty-eighth notes

Hundred twenty-eighth notes (also called “semihemidemisemiquaver” or “quasihemidemisemiquaver”) are notated with a filled-in oval, a straight stem, five beams or flags, and cover 1/128th of a whole note.

128th notes explained using Beethoven's Pathétique Sonata (Op. 13)
128th notes explained using Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata (Op. 13)

Two hundred fifty-sixth notes

Hundred twenty-eighth notes (also called “demisemihemidemisemiquaver”) are notated with a filled-in oval, a straight stem, six beams or flags, and cover 1/256th of a whole note.

256th-note-explained-using-mozarts-variations-on-je-suis-lindor
256th notes explained using Mozart’s variations on Je suis Lindor

Five hundred twelfth notes & one thousand twenty-fourth notes

Five hundred twelfth notes (also called “hemidemisemihemidemisemiquaver”) are notated with a filled-in oval, a straight stem, seven beams or flags, and cover 1/512th of a whole note.

One thousand twenty fourth notes (also called “semihemidemisemihemidemisemiquaver”) are notated with a filled-in oval, a straight stem, eight beams or flags, and cover 1/1024th of a whole note.

512th notes = green
1024th notes = orange

512th notes and 1024th notes explained using Toccata Grande Cromatica by Anthony Philip Heinrich
512th notes and 1024th notes explained using Toccata Grande Cromatica by Anthony Philip Heinrich

Even shorter notes

In theory, it is possible to notate even shorter notes, such as 2048th or 4096th notes, which would be notated with nine beams or flags, and, respectively 10 beams or flags.

Even shorter note values are theoretically possible, but they are not widely used and would likely end up being rather unplayable anyway, so no need to worry about them.

5/5 - (2 votes)