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  • Writer's pictureАлександр Васильев

Sound Duration (part 1)

Updated: Jan 13

Just as there is no practical sense in recording the pitch of a sound in hertz, there is no practical sense in recording the absolute duration of a sound in seconds or other units of time. In order to play a melody, you need to know the relative duration of the sound—in comparison with other sounds in the melody.

To do this, we need to consider two characteristics of each melody, tempo and rhythm.


Tempo determines how fast or slow a piece of music is played. Historically, (like many things in music) tempo was written in Italian terms.

The following table lists the basic tempo symbols.

Italian Name

English Name



​heavily, seriously

♩ = 40—48



♩ = 44—52


​(«at ease») easily,


♩ = 48—56



♩ = 50—58


(«walking») flowing

​♩ = 58—72

​andante non troppo


but not too much

♩ = 66—80


​somewhat close to andante

= 72—88



neither slow nor fast

= 80—96


​somewhat slower

than allegro

= 92—108




= 100—116

​allegro moderato

​quite lively,

cheerful and quickly

= 108—126

​tempo di marcia


= 112—126

allegro ma non troppo

lively, cheerful and quickly,

but not too much

= 116—132

​allegro tranquillo


cheerful and quickly, but calm

= 116—132



cheerful and quickly

= 120—144

​allegro agitato,

allegro animato


cheerful and quickly

= 152—176

​allegro vivace


cheerful and quickly

= 160—170


​lively and fast

= 160—176


​lively and fast

= 176—192



= 184—200


​very fast

= 192—208

(and higher)

The last column shows the values you need to adjust on the metronome.

To accurately indicate the tempo, used Beats Per Minute / bpm notation.


In its most general form, rhythm is defined as the organization of music over time. This organization is manifested in the alternation of strong and weak beats, organized into repeating structures.

Examples: two-beat rhythm — Jingle Bells; three-beat rhythm — Carol Of The Bells; four-beat rhythm — We Will Rock You.

Starting from the three-beat rhythm, not only strong and weak, but also moderately strong beats begin to appear.

Duration of sounds and rests

The duration of a sound in music is expressed in how many beats it lasts.

It is important to note that this division applies both to the duration of the sound and to pauses (or rests), that is, those periods of time when there is a break in the sound.

The following table shows the symbols for notes and rests of different lengths.

Also, the durations of notes have their own names. Here are some common note durations:

  1. Double Whole Note (Breve): Represents eight beats.

  2. Whole Note (Semibreve): Represents four beats.

  3. Half Note (Minim): Represents two beats.

  4. Quarter Note (Crotchet): Represents one beat.

  5. Eighth Note (Quaver): Represents half a beat.

  6. Sixteenth Note (Semiquaver): Represents one-fourth of a beat.

  7. Thirty-Second Note (Demisemiquaver): Represents one-eighth of a beat.

  8. Sixty-Fourth Note (Hemidemisemiquaver): Represents one-sixteenth of a beat.

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