How to Read Music – Lesson 10 – The Note


The note tells us 2 things: It designates the time duration and pitch of a sound.

There are 5 parts to understand any type of note. They are:

1. The Head
2. The Stem
3. The Flag
4. The Beam
5. Position on the staff

The head of a note is the round part. It can be open, commonly called a white note head, like a whole or half note, or it can be filled. If it’s filled, like a quarter or eighth note, it’s called a black note head.

All note except the whole note have a stem. The stem may go up or down depending on the notes position in the staff. The up stem is always on the right of the note head and the down stem is always on the left of the note head.

The flag is used on notes such as the eighth and sixteenth, or any note shorter than these durations. The flag is always located on the right of the stem no matter which direction the stem goes.

You will find multiple flags in music notation. Often when music has many notes with flags they are grouped together and connected with a beam. A beam is a way of visually decluttering note flags. When a beam is used instead of a flag the number of beams touching the stem will be the same as if there were flags.

Finally, the notes position on the staff tells us the pitch of the note. If you need a refresher on pitch take a look at lessons 1, 2 and 3.

To understand the note better take a look at the video above and download the free note poster.

If you liked this lesson don’t forget to sign-up for the free One Minute Music Lesson newsletter. With your subscription you will also receive a free copy of the eBook “How to Read Music” by Leon Harrell.

Where to go next:

Enjoyed This Post? Then signup for the free One Minute Music Lesson newsletter and receive a FREE copy of “How to Read Music.”

Need More Help? Email Leon any questions you have about reading music, music theory or anything else music-related and get the answers you’ve been searching for.

This entry was posted in Beams, Flags, How to Read Music, Stems, The Note. Bookmark the permalink.