This page uses UK note names. USA note names are shown in brackets.

Note Shapes

To show how long notes should be held for, we draw them with different shapes.

Most notes are made up of a note head and a stem (apart from semibreves (whole notes), which have no stem).

Crotchets (Quarter Notes)

The most basic and most common length of note is the crotchet, which looks like this:


It’s a black note head on a basic stem, (or stick).

A crotchet quarter note usually represents one beat.

As musicians, we can decide for ourselves exactly how long a beat should be, but often a crotchet lasts about one second.

Here are 4 crotchet quarter note Ds.

crotchet Ds

Quavers (8th Notes)

Notes which are twice as fast as crotchets are called quavers . They look like this:


Notice that although the quaver 8th note has a black note head like the crotchet, it also has a small tail on the right side of its stem.

Here are 8 quavers, F sharps and Gs.


(To find out why there is only one sharp symbol, read Accidentals.)

Listen to the crotchets and quavers together.

crotchets and quavers

The quavers here are joined together in groups called beams – this makes them easier to read. The rules about beaming are explained in  Beaming.

Minims (Half Notes)

Minims half notes are twice as long as crotchets.


Minims look like this:

Notice that minims look like crotchets (quarter notes), but their heads are white, not black.

Here are a minim B and  A, in the bass clef: 

minims B and A

Listen to the crotchets , quavers and minims together:

Semibreves (Whole Notes)

Semibreves  are twice as long as minims, or four times as long as crotchets. Semibreves look like this:


Here is a semibreve whole note D in the bass clef:

semibreve D

Listen to the crotchets, minims half notes, quavers and semibreves together:

quavers, crotchets, minims, semibreves

Semiquavers (16th Notes)

NB semiquavers are introduced at grade 2 in the Trinity syllabus.)

Semiquavers  are twice as fast as quavers, or 4 times faster than crotchets. Four semiquavers take up the same amount of time as 1 crotchet quarter note. So, a semiquaver is equal to a quarter of a crotchet. 

A semiquaver  looks like this:


We can also join two or more semiquavers together, like this:

two beamed semiquavers

Semiquavers look like quavers, but they have two tails where quavers have one.

Here are some semiquavers in action:

beamed semiquavers

And here is the finished product – from semibreves to semiquavers!

semibreves, minims, crotchets, quavers and semiquavers together.

Why are Semibreves called Semibreves?

There is another note, called a breve (double whole note), which is worth two semibreves .

Breves aren’t used very much these days, so you don’t need to know about them for your grade 1 music theory exam (they appear at grade 4 ABRSM or grade 5 Trinity).

A long time ago, breves and semibreves were quite short notes. Over time, they have become longer and longer, and so today we think of semibreves as very long notes, but it wasn’t always the case! 

Time Names Exercises

Hover/tap to reveal the answers.

1. Give the the time name of each note marked with a star (e.g. “minim” or “half note”). The first one has been done for you.

note-names 0 0note-names 0 1note-names 0 2note-names 0 3note-names 0 4note-names 0 5note-names 0 6note-names 0 7

2. Put these notes in order of length, starting with the longest.

Put the notes in order of length - grade 1 music theory

3. Give the note name and time name of each of the following notes.

Give the note name and time name of these notes - grade 1 music theory

4. Give the note name and time name of each of the following notes.

Give the note and time name of these notes - grade 1 music theory