How to Read Music – Lesson 9 – Rhythmic Values


Rhythm is the systematic arrangement of musical sound in time. In order to show this musicians use musical notation.

Rhythmic values, the individual mathematical time values of rhythm, are shown with notation such as whole, half, quarter, eighth and sixteenth notes. Also there are other possible notational values.

To begin to understand rhythm imagine a circle. A circle is a complete whole. A whole note looks like a circle. A whole note gets 4 beats.

If you divide the circle into 2 parts, you get 2 halves. A half note is half the value of a whole note, 2 beats.

If you divide the whole into 4 equal parts you get quarters. A quarter note is 1/4 the value of a whole note, 1 beat.

If you divide this quarter into 2 halves you get a 1/2 beat for each new note. But this new note is called an eighth note. This is because the value of this note is 1/8 the time value of a whole note. 4 beats divided by 8 parts will equal a 1/2 of a beat.

Finally if you divide the circle, or whole note, into 16 equal parts you will get 1/16 of a beat, called a sixteenth note.

To understand this better take a look at the video above and download the free rhythmic value poster so can visually make the connection with the math.

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  • Mohammed

    Hi, I liked this tutorials but I need more details about rhythm I still do not understand it.

    • leonharrell

      Hi Mohammad,

      Feel free to email me at with any specific questions. Also I have written a book on how to read music easily in 30 days that breaks down how to count rhythms using the eastman counting system that is simple and highly effective. You may find it helpful because it explains why so many people only have part of the story when it comes to counting rhythm.

      Either way let me know how I can help you out,

      Leon Harrell