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A tone of definite pitch. In written music, a note is a sign that represents a single sound of a given music pitch and the duration that the pitch should be played or sung. The pitch of a Note is defined by its position on a musical staff combined with the given key signature while the duration of a note is defined by a set of written note values, or symbols. The most familiar note values are as follows:

  • Whole Note: Equals four Quarter Notes.
  • Half Note: Equals one-half of a Whole Note or two Quarter Notes.
  • Quarter Note: Equals one-fourth (or one-quarter) of a Whole Note.
  • Eight Note: Equals one-eighth of a Whole Note or one-half of a Quarter Note.
  • Sixteenth Note: Equals one-sixteenth of a Whole Note.

Outside of written music, a note is a bit harder to fully grasp in exact terms. Why? Consider the pitch of a note. The same note with a predetermined pitch, say A/440 (440 Hz), played or performed by different instruments is going to sound very different. Why? While the pitch of the note is defined in physics by the frequency of vibrations of the sound, there are sometimes other supporting factors such as Timbre or the harmonic structure of the instrument. Similarly, while a note in written music is also defined by its duration, not all instruments perform attacks and decays the same. This creates individual character that can further define a note in a given scenario. So, while a Note in written music is easily definable, a Note in the ‘real world’ is alive and organic.

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