Once we understand the concept of bar and beat, we can begin to read music.

Symbols are used to indicate the duration of a sound. Let's start by looking at symbols with durations of one, two, and four beats:

Name (USA) Name (England) Duration Symbol
Whole Note Semibreve 4 beats
Half Note Minim 2 beats
Quarter Note Crotchet 1 beat

Note the relationship between the values of the different symbols:

Each whole note (semibreve):
is divided into two half notes (minim).
And each half note (minim)
is divided into two quarter notes (crotchet)
Thus, each symbol will have half the
value of the preceding shape.

Let's look at a musical example using these symbols. The vertical lines (or bar lines) separate and group the notes into measures (or bars) for easier reading (we can see three measures in this particular example). You can hear a percussive sound for each bar and a flute playing the written notes. Notice how a half note lasts the duration of two percussive sounds (two beats), the quarter note lasts only one beat, and the whole note lasts four beats:

Translated by Dan Román, revised by Sue Talley.

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José Rodríguez Alvira.