The durations

Representation of times in music

In solfeggio , if the length of time - defined by regular beats - is most often constant, the duration of notes and silences is not necessarily. The notation must be able to express, not only of equal duration in time, but also specific terms which are higher or lower. To represent the musical terms, two types of symbols exist, one to represent the notes played and sung - the figures of note - the other to represent certain moments of silence between notes - the figures of silence.

Form figures

Scoring proportional figures of notes dates roughly from the XIIth century. Until the XIth century, musical notation includes only the heights - so very rough way - by a system called accents neum . The neumes do not take into account the pace: indeed, it is assumed to arise from the pace of free text sung. During the second half of the XIth century, neumes evolve to indicate different periods of their form from now on, the rhythmic values are determined more rigorously. During the XIIth, XIIIth and XIVth centuries, we use the square notation. The first type of proportional notation consists of black figures in the shape of squares or lozenges, and drawn with a quill pen - it will be permanently associated with the notation of plainsong. In the XVth century, we use the notation white: the notes are always square, but next to the black faces, white faces appear. It was not until the XVIth century, thanks to advances in printing music that gradually spreads the current appraisal system, known as "grading round".

Each figure represents a figure of note for the same period of silence:

Figures de notes et de silences

Figures note

The figures of note are in the form of an oval - called "head notes" - the position on the staff indicates the height of the note - cf. Disposition of notes on the staff. The note head is 'white' as regards the white and all values are superior - round, square, mostly - and "black" in regard to black and all values which are below - note, sixteenth note, etc.. The white and all values that are lower also possess a pole (or tail). Finally, the eighth and all the values that are inferior, are equipped with one or more hooks.

  • The square is a figure of note whose duration is twice the round. It is a remembrance of the "square rating" of the late Middle Ages. This figure is rarely used since the XVIIth century.
  • The circle is the figure of notes whose duration is half the square and double white. It was chosen as the encryption calculation unit of measure and is worth four times.
  • The white is the figure of note whose duration is half of the round and twice the black. It has a pole, and all figures that are lower are too. The rounded part - the "head notes" - is white, and figures that are higher - round and square. It is two times
  • The black is the figure of note whose duration is half of the white and double the note. The rounded part - his "head notes" - is black, and the figures which are below - note, sixteenth note, etc.. It gets one beat.
  • The eighth is the figure of note whose duration is half of the black and double the sixteenth note.
As its name implies, the eighth note is usually with a hook, all figures which are below include a number equivalent to the number of hooks expressed by their name: "sixteenth note" hooks, "demisemiquaver" three hooks, etc.. When multiple eighth notes in sequence, the hooks can be replaced by links. The eighth is a half-time.
  • The sixteenth note is the figure of note whose duration is half of the eighth and twice the demisemiquaver. Sixteenth note is one fourth of time.
  • The eighth is triple the figure of note whose duration is half of the sixteenth and eighth double of the quadruple. The three eighth is an eighth time.
  • The Quad is the crooked figure of note whose duration is half the triple notes. This figure, more recently established, is very rarely used, but is still sixteenth time.

Figures of silence

  • The break stick is the silence that corresponds to the square. It can also be used in a special way: at the center of a measure, and surmounted by a number, break the stick indicates an equal number of consecutive steps in silence after.
  • The rest is silence which corresponds to the round. It can also be used in a special way: one placed at the center of a measure, the break indicates that this measure is silent, and this, even if the total value of the measure it is theoretically higher or lower.
  • The half rest is silence, which corresponds to the white.
  • The rest is silence, which corresponds to black.
  • The eighth rest is silence which is the eighth.
  • The sixteenth rest is silence which is the sixteenth note.
  • The eighth note rest is silence, which corresponds to the triple notes.
  • The sixteenth note rest is silence which corresponds to the quadruple note. The figure, more recent creation, is also little used.


It should not be fooled by the terminology of the various figures which can easily mislead. In the field of figures of silence, the words half, quarter, etc.., Refer to the value of the figure in question: thus the half note is worth half a break, is the sixteenth rest although a quarter of a sigh, etc.. On the contrary, in Figures Notes, double, triple, etc.. Does not refer to the value of the figure in question (the sixteenth note, for example, worth half a quaver, and not twice, despite its name! The demisemiquaver not ternary but the level above the sixteenth, and is therefore half of a sixteenth note), but its description: the eighth word in fact must be understood as an abbreviation of the hook. Thus the eighth note is the figure with a simple hook, the sixteenth note is the figure with a double hook, etc..

Principles of use

The time slicing of a musical sequence can take two forms, depending on the type of notes issued by voice or instrument.

  • Notes not held - the case of most percussion - In this case, the position of the symbol which embodies the rating represents the time it is played in the score, while the shape of the symbol represents the time that elapses before the next symbol.
  • Notes with held - mainly string instruments and wind instruments and voices -: in this case, the symbol represents both the moment when the note is played and the time during which it is held.

Relative value figures

In the previous table, each figure is in length, half the previous figure, and double the figure below. For example, the eighth note is half black, a quarter of the white, etc.. but also double the sixteenth, four times the demisemiquaver, etc.. From this principle, we can deduce the following two tables:

  • Relative value figures of notes:
Valeur relative des figures de notes
  • Relative value figures of silence:
Valeur relative des figures de silences

Absolute figures

The figures are attached to any absolute time. This is the unit of time, set at the beginning of each piece, which will help determine - for this piece only - the value of different figures, below or above this unit of time.

Extending the duration of Figures

The duration of the various figures may be extended in various ways:

  • through various types of points;
  • through the association - by the addition of figures
  • through the high point - by suspending the tempo .

(Source: - copyright authors - article under GFDL)

Creation date : 16/03/2009 15:48
Last update : 05/04/2009 10:06
Category : - Solfeggio
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Neume is called (from the Greek  νεύμα neuma, sign, or alteration of Greek πνεύμα pneuma, breath) signs of musical notation that were used from eighth century and throughout the Middle Ages to the widespread brought modern five lines. The notation on the square neumatic increased to four lines still used in modern editions of plainchant, that is to say essentially the Gregorian chant.

The neume transcribed melodic and rhythmic formula applied to a syllable (a single syllable may receive several neumes in melismatic singing). Contrary to the modern approach, the basic element for Gregorian chant (whether for its analysis or its interpretation) is not the musical note, but the neum.



In western music, solfeggio (or music theory) is the study of elements to read, write, play or sing a score. The ultimate goal of reading music is to hear a musical work, its orchestration and its interpretation, no other medium that its interior hearing.

Time ternary

A ternary music (Jazz, Swing, New Orleans Boogie triple) is composed of ternary time. A triple is a long time divided into three equal parts. In a ternary music, we usually play two notes by time, the first note is two-thirds of time and the second note takes third time. This imbalance of time between the notes of the same time gives a peculiar sensation, the sensation of bouncing.

In almost every boogie time is divided into two grades in the report 2/3-1/3 as mentioned above which gives a feeling of bouncing tonic.

In swing is almost a time of 2 is broken down in the 2/3-1/3 ratio which gives a feeling of bouncing nonchalant.