2.TuHalf-Notes / Minims

Today, we introduce a new note value, the half-note / minim. It seems like a good time to explain why one name for each note value isn't enough . . .

american & english note-names

Music is an international language, but note names vary from country to country. English names - semibreve, minim, crotchet, quaver, semi-quaver and so on - derive from a notation system that predates even Standard Notation and it has to be said that they're really just names. They don't tell us anything useful.

America, however, adapted a German system in which note-names usefully state their relative values. In this system, a whole-note is twice as long as a half-note (well, duh?) and four times as long as a quarter-note. Once you've grasped this logic, eighth-notes, sixteenth-notes & thirty-second-notes are self-explanatory.

In the diagram below, each line takes up the same amount of time.

My Image

Crotchets, minims and demi-semi-hemi-demi-semi-quavers will take generations to flush out of our collective system. We're stuck with them. They're unavoidable.

However, American music books, websites, videos etc. are also unavoidable and they all refer to whole-notes and half-notes, as do 'global' Music Technology applications like Logic. You need to be able to converse with the old guard as well as the new, so it will pay you to learn both sets of names.

For more detail, here's Adam Neely's excellent rant on the topic -

half-notes / minims

So here is that new note-value, the half-note / minim, an empty oval with a stem. When a quarter-note lasts for one beat, a half-note will last for two.

  • The following rhythms are to count & clap and then to play on your instrument.
  • They mix whole, half & quarter-notes.
  • Play each line at least twice.
  • Aim for 132bpm

How it should have sounded - each line is played twice.

Now some half-notes / minims and quarter-notes / crotchets in the same bar . . .

  • Clap & count the first eight bars, then play them.
  • The last eight bars are slightly more complex, and you'll need to work out the counting yourself.
  • Clap & count first . . .