A regularly-spaced, recurring pulse
The speed or rate at which the beat is occurring, expressed in beats per minute (bpm)
Beat note
tells us what note value lasts for one beat (usually quarter note)
the perceptual framework created by two interacting pulse streams that group beats into measures
a way to group beats – one measure is the time from one downbeat to the next
Simple meters
meters where the beat itself is commonly divided into two parts
first beat of a measure
last beat of a measure
Common time

key signature: 4/4 or C


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4 beats per measure (simple quadruple), quarter note beat note


frequency of sound waves
pattern of durations of sounds in time
A predetermined set of relationships between pitches where one pitch is the center of the system
Music staff
set of 5 parallel lines used to indicate higher or lower pitches
ledger line
a line parallel to the staff, used to extend it (Middle C is one ledger line below the staff)
distance between two pitches with the same pitch-name
clef sign

identifies where a specific pitch is on the staff

  • treble clef = G above middle C
  • bass clef = F below middle C
  • Alto and tenor clefs = middle C

the distance from one note on a keyboard to an adjacent one, whether black or white
enharmonic equivalence

the relationship between two notes that have different names or labels, but that have exactly the same pitch

E# = Fb

Great Staff or Grand Staff
Treble clef and bass clef are attached by a brace (a single line attaching them) and a curved bracket. Treble clef is always above bass clef, and the two are separated by at least one staff-height.
Octave designation system

System of numbering the octaves on a keyboard from C1-C8.

Notes below the lowest C (C1) are in “octave zero” and are labeled A0 and B0.

Each octave begins at C.


Middle C is C4.


Octave-transfer Signs

Octave higher: 8va

Octave lower: 8vb

Double sharp/flat

Double sharp: x

Double flat: bb

Time signature
Tells music reader how many beats per measure (top) and what the beat note is (bottom)
Whole Notes & Rests

A Whole note lasts for “one” beat (this depends on time signature). It looks like a hollow oval.


A whole rest lasts for 4 beats too, and looks like an upside-down top hat hanging from the fourth line in the staff.


Half notes & Rests

A Half-note lasts half as long as a whole note and looks like a hollow oval with a stem.


A half-note rest looks like a top hat resting on the third line of the staff.


Stem orientation

When a note with a stem is on the third line or higher, the stem goes DOWN to the left.



When a note is on the second line or lower, it goes UP to the right.


stems are always about four lines tall.


Quarter notes and rests

a quarter-note lasts half as long as a half-note and looks like a filled-in oval with a stem.

a quarter-rest looks like a z on top of a c and stretches across the middle 3 lines of the staff.


Eighth- and Sixteenth-notes/rests

Eighth notes last half as long as quarter notes, and are notated with a filled-in oval with a flag on the right side of the stem (regardless of stem orientation)


Eighth-note rests are little 7’s that cross the middle line of the staff.



Sixteenth-notes and rests are the same as eighth-notes and rests except they have 2 flags instead of one. (rest 7’s have two top bars)

beams should be used instead of flags whenever a single beat is divided into eighth- or sixteenth-notes (but a beam can never cross the middle point of a bar).


increase the value of the note to which they are applied by one half.


If a second dot is present, it adds half the duration added by the first dot.

ex: a dotted quarter-note gets an eighth-note added to it. If there’s a second dot, the duration lasts for a quarter-note + eighth-note + sixteenth-note length.

Anacrusis/pickup notes
notes that come before the first downbeat of a piece (and thus before the first barline), and which make a complete measure with the last notes in the piece.
Compound Meter

the beat is subdivided into three parts



beat note = usually dotted quarter



Time signatures:

  • top # tells you how many subdivisions there are in each measure (multiply by three the number of beats per measure)
  • bottom # refers to the subdivision of the beat note


Compound Duple, Triple, and Quadruple Meters

If beat note is a dotted quarter-note, the bottom note is an 8.

If it’s a dotted half-note, the bottom note is a 4.

Compound Duple: the top number is always 6.

Compound Triple: the top number is always 9.

Compound Quadruple: the top number is always 12.

Options: 6/8, 6/4, 9/8, 9/4, 12/8, 12/4

Simple Double, Triple, and Quadruple Meters

bottom number:

2 = half-note bn, 4 = quarter-note bn, 8 = eighth-note bn

top number:

4 = simple quadruple (4 beats per measure)

3 = simple triple (3 beats per measure)

2 = simple duple (2 beats per measure)

Agogic Accents
percieved accents coming from certain sounds being longer
Steps for Rhythmic Dictation

  1. Figure out meter
  2. Figure out how many measures & write them in
  3. Write in beat counts under each measure
  4. Check work