The Equal Division of Note Division

The Equal Division of Note Division

In musical theory, we symbolize the rhythm of notes based on time and the designated ‘beat value’ in the meter. This article will discuss how dividing musical notes is similar to dividing up numbers. It is important to understand that dividing up notes can also be applied to rests (the musical symbol for the absence of sound).

The rhythm of notes is shown by how we divide up the amount of time held for each note on a staff. Therefore, we have various symbols that correspond to the ‘amount of time’ given to each note.

To learn more about the musical meter click here.

Here is a chart that shows the various musical symbols used to designate a note’s rhythmic value:

image of note values

If the quarter note is the designated beat of the piece, then it will have a rhythmic value of 1. Thus, a half note will be held for twice as long as a quarter note and a whole note is held twice as long as a half note, etc.
Also, we can then see that there are clear properties of division that are used in music to designate the rhythmic values of notes on a staff. A quarter note is divided into two eighth notes. An eighth note is divided into two sixteenth notes. A sixteenth into two thirty-second notes, and so on. We start to envision this sense of how we see the make-up of a beat.
We can divide a beat into two equal parts and, in the case of triplets and compound meters, we can divide a beat into three equal parts. Dividing a beat like this is similar to looking at a pie chart.

Look at this example displaying the divisions of a whole note:

Pie graph of a divided whole note

In a sense, the division of the beat can be looked at like how we divide the number one.
For instance,
A whole note can be divided into four quarter notes.
1 = ¼ * 4
A quarter note can be divided into two eighth notes.
¼ = 1/8 * 2
The potential parallels are endless. This is the basis of note division at an EQUAL level. To learn more about the inequal division of notes click here.

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