The word "note" has two distinct meanings in its British usage
(see alternative names):
Although these are physically two different things, they have a
My definition of a note is a single
which is heard for a certain amount of time:
- A single sound (one that is heard)
- A single notated symbol for a sound (one that is written)
- Traditional music notation is structured around this definition
of a note.
- Music consists of many notes
- Sometimes notes come after each other in time (sequentially,
e.g. in a sung melody).
- At other times many notes are heard at once; this is usually
because many instruments or voices are each playing or singing a
- When music is written down, each individual note is individually
represented, both those which are heard sequentially, and those
which are heard all at once.
- Each individually represented note has a single
frequency or pitch and lasts for
a certain amount of time.
- During the length of a note, whether it be short or long, it may
change its loudness, or sometimes even its quality (or tone), but
it is still considered to be the same note.
- It follows that a single note in a single
part is played
or sung by only one type of instrument or voice.
- Some clarifications are required:
- Some percussion instruments have notes written for them with
indeterminate lengths because a note played on them
cannot be sustained for any length of time; a drum is the most
- Some types of instruments can play a note which can change its
pitch gradually during its length.
A example is a hawaiian guitar, or any stringed instrument
without frets, like a violin. There is no exact way to notate
a change in pitch in a single note,
but the most common example is a slide from one note to another.
This is called a glissando.
- Some instruments can play many notes at once (e.g. keyboard
instruments and some stringed instruments like the harp).
These notes may be a chord, or may be notes of different
moving independently. In these cases, each note is still
written with specific lengths.
- A note is written in a number of different ways, depending on its length.
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