note, in musical notation, symbol placed on or between the lines of a staff to indicate the pitch and the relative duration of the tone to be produced by voice or instrument. The largest note value in common use in the United States is the whole note, an elliptical outline. Its value is halved by the addition of a stem. A solid note with a stem is the quarter note, the most usual metric unit in modern notation. The eighth note resembles the quarter note, with the addition of a flag at the end of the stem; with each flag added, the value of the note is again halved. For each note value, there is a rest of corresponding value; rests are named in the same way as notes, e.g., whole rest, half rest.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.