Most music is played to a regular count (sometimes called the pulse or the beat). The count may be fast or it may be slow, but it is always as even as the ticking of a clock or the marching of soldiers. The count is what you might tap your foot to when you listen to music, and it is what you say to yourself as you play a piece.
Each count has the same length, but music itself uses sounds (notes) and silences (resets) of different lengths to create patterns that fit over the beat. These patterns form the rhythm of the music. We will learn about rests in lesson 10 – for now we will learn how notes fit with the count.
The longest note we normally use is called a whole note. It looks like this ( ) and lasts for four counts, and it is represented with the following sound Ta- a- a- a.
A half note lasts for two counts, and it is represented with the following sound Ta- a. So two half notes take the same number of counts as one whole note.
A quarter note lasts for one count, and it is represented with the following sound Ta. So four quarter notes take the same number of counts as one whole note.
Half notes and quarter notes are turned upside down if the note is higher that the middle line of the stave.
We will find out more about counting in the next lesson.