Time Values

If you think of any melody, you’ll notice the two main elements are:

  • Pitch –  how high the notes are
  • Duration – how long the notes are

Time values indicate how long a note should be played/held for.

To make this as simple as possible, let’s start with the Crochet.


Commonly referred to as Beat, or 1 Beat, this is our starting point.



If we hold a note for 2 beats (exactly twice as long) it’s called a Minim and it looks like this:



Semibreve is 4 beats long:


Starting with the Semibreve, we can divide it into 2 Minims, and further divide the Minim into 2 Crochets.

semibreve (4) = 2 minims (2+2)

semibreve equals two minims

Minim (2) = 2 crochets (1+1)

Minim equals two crochets


Notes shorter than crochets have flags that cut their value in half.

  • 1 flag: half the value of a crochet
  • 2 flags: a quarter of the value of a crochet

quaver has 1 flag and looks like this:


For example, a crochet = 2 quavers

Crochet equals two Quavers


A semiquaver has two flags and is worth half a quaver.


Therefore, a Quaver equals two Semiquavers:

Quaver equals two Semiquavers

American Vs British Terminology

There is confusion over the American and British terms for the different note durations. Essentially, it all comes down to simple math, and that’s why American terminology is more helpful. It calls the note by its mathematical value.

However, we believe every musician should know both.

Use this as a guide:

1 – Semibreve (Wholenote)
2 – Minim (Half note)
4 – Crochet (Quarter note) 
8 – Quaver (Eighth note)
16 – Semiquaver (Sixteenth note)

2MinimHalf note
4CrochetQuarter note
8QuaverEight note
16SemiquaverSixteenth note