- Whole note
music, a whole note (American or "German" terminology) or semibreve (British or "classical" terminology) is a noterepresented by a hollow oval note head, like a half note(or "minim"), and no note stem(see Figure 1). Its length is typically equal to four beats in 4/4 time. Most other notes divide the whole note; half notes are played for one half the duration of the whole note, quarter notes (or "crotchets") are each played for one quarter the duration, etc.A whole note lasts half as long as a double whole note(or "breve").
A related symbol is the whole rest (or semibreve rest), which usually denotes a silence for the same duration. Whole rests are drawn as filled-in rectangles hanging under the second line from the top of a
The whole rest, and occasionally the whole note, are also used in a more general way in
time signatures other than 4/4; there they can represent the entire measure, regardless of how many whole notes would ordinarily fit in. For example, a whole rest may have a length equal to five beats if used in 5/4 time. If followed by a quarter note, however, it will have the ordinary value.
The whole note derives from the "semibrevis" of
mensural notation, and this is the origin of the British name. The American name is a loan translationof the German "Ganze Note".
The names of this note (and rest) in European languages vary greatly:
The French and Spanish names for the note (both meaning "round") derive from the fact that the "semibrevis" was distinguished by its round stemless shape, which is true as well of the modern form (in contrast to the
double whole noteor shorter values with stems). The Greek name means "whole".
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