Note Value: Theory for the Guitarist

Music has the power of producing a certain effect on the moral character of the soul.

— Aristotle

The note value is the basis in music that brings note after note together to form a beautiful melody or a rousing rhythm section. It is very important for a guitarist to understand how to count the note value. This is what creates the rhythmic framework of a piece of music, no matter what genre or style you play in.

Melody is sounded with an organized note value sequence that transforms into rhythmic structures. It is just an unorganized set of sounds without rhythm. So, in today's lesson, we will talk about note value. This is the number one topic when a student takes guitar lessons at the Serenada Guitar School, but if the guitarist didn't get the hang of it, this topic will come up all the time.

Types of Note Values

In the illustration below you check what types of note values can be: whole note, half note, quarter note, and eighth note.

Note Values guitar

Note values indicate the sound duration over time.

Whole Note (Semibreve)

Let's start with the very beginning. In the world of music, the whole note is regarded as the unit of duration.

The whole note has a hollow notehead without a stem (stick) and consists of 4 beats.

Whole Note Semibreve

If you play any sound on the guitar, count to four and then mute it, that will be the duration equal to the whole note.

Half Note (Minim)

If we have learned how to play, understand and feel what a whole note is, let's imagine that this whole note has been divided in half. In this way, we will have two half notes.

The half note has a hollow note head with a stem (stick) and consists of 2 beats.

Half Note Minim

Now try to get a feel for the half note. Play any sound on your guitar and count to two. That will be the duration equal to the half note.

Quarter Note (Crotchet)

Now it's time to divide the half note in half to make a quarter note.

The quarter note has a painted note head with a stem (stick) and consists of 1 music beat.


Play any sound on your guitar, count to one, and mute it. By doing so, you'll be able to feel the quarter note in the space.

Eighth Note (Quaver)

The eighth note has an even shorter sound duration. Divide a quarter in half, so that we get an eighth.

The eighth note has a painted head with a stem (stick) and a one-note flag. This note is worth ½ of a quarter beat.

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It's better to play two eights and count as "one - and" to perceive the sound.

Try to play two sounds on any string and speak out loud for each sound "one - and", so you get a sense of the eighth note duration.

Then the sixteenth, thirty-second, sixty-fourth, and a hundred twenty-eighth notes follow, but we will not talk about these yet, as we must first learn to count simple notes.

The following scheme helps my students to understand the note values. This picture shows how the note value is divided up in a measure. I think you will find it useful too.

notes values bars

I sincerely hope that another mysterious door has been opened to you as a guitar lover, and my explanation has given a more comprehensive picture of the above-mentioned subject. My name is Serhii Hlushchenko, and this lesson is based on personal practical approaches. Of course, unfortunately, it's hard to put all the knowledge and learning methods into a short article.

Mastering the smallest nuances with the student in class, explaining the material in different ways, and self-studying at home are the most essential educational principles. Don't forget that it is better to find a good teacher in your town and learn how to play properly than to correct mistakes later. You can also contact us to try out a free trial lesson via Skype. I wish you further creative success!
Yours faithfully, Serhii Hlushchenko.