Notes and Rests

  1. Duration of Notes & Rests

  2. Names in various Languages

  3. Scale Degrees of the Major scale

  4. About Transposing Instruments

    Transposition into Bass Clef

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NT 1 - Duration of Notes & Rests


In the Time Signature at the beginning of a piece of music

  1. the upper number defines the number of beats in each bar,

  2. while the lower number defines the length of each beat.
For example in 3/4 time, there are 3 beats in each bar and each beat is a quaver (1/4 note) long.

The following Table shows the length of each note value for the most commonly used Time signatures.

Time Signature Semibreve
2/2 2 beats 1 beat 1/2 beat 1/4 beat 1/8 beat
2/4 - 3/4 - 4/4 4 beats 2 beats 1 beat 1/2 beat 1/4 beat
3/8 - 6/8 - 9/8 - 4 beats 2 beats 1 beat 1/2 beat

When a dot is placed behind a note or rest it increases in length by half its value.

Therefore :

  • a dotted minim in 4/4 time = 2 beats + 1 beat = 3 beats long

  • a dotted crotchet in 4/4 time = 1 beat + 1/2 beat = 11/2 beat long

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NT 2 - Note & Rest Names in various Languages


The note letter names A - B - C - D - E - F and G represent the same pitches in all countries, except in Germany where
  • the letter B is used for the pitch Bb

  • and the letter H is used for the pitch B natural

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NT 3 - Scale Degrees of the Major scale

The 'scale-tones' or 'degrees' of a major scale have individual names which reflect there rank and function within that scale.

The function of a note differs depending on which major scale it belongs to.
F for example is the 'subdominant' in the C major scale, the 'tonic' in the F major scale, the 'dominant' in the Bb major scale, and so on.

These terms are rarely used in Jazz, but are still useful to understand, just in case.


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NT 4 - About Transposing Instruments

One should always remember that our present music system developed over a period of over 3000 years.
The establishment of a universal pitch in particular has followed a long and tortuous road, which ended only recently (in 1939) when the now standard pitch of A = 440 Hz was universally accepted at an International Congress.

As a result of this, as well as other factors - like the instrument maker's preferred pitch range for particular instruments, not all instruments are tuned to the same pitch.
The C on an alto saxophone for example sounds the same as an Eb on the piano, and the C on a trumpet for example sounds the same as a Bb on the piano.

There are three groups of instruments in terms of pitch compatibility.

  1. Concert key instruments (C-instruments) - tuned to Concert pitch C
    They include : piano, accordion, guitar, flute, recorder, harp, voice, trombone, violin, bass

  2. Bb-instruments - tuned to Concert pitch Bb
    They include : trumpet, clarinet, tenor & soprano saxophone

  3. Eb-instruments - tuned to Concert pitch Eb
    They include : alto & baritone saxophone
In order to play together in the same pitch instruments from the three groups require therefore music notation in different keys. When the guitar plays in the Concert key of F major, the clarinetist has to play in his/her key of G, and the alto saxophonist in his/her key of D major.

In Jazclass sheet music is provided for all three instrument groups, so that no one has to transpose the music into another key. Just make sure you select in the Downloading Bay (at the end of each lesson) the right sheet music and you will play in tune with the play-a-long track provided.

There is no sheet music provided for instruments reading in Concert key Bass Clef.
You either need to read the Concert key Treble Clef score, or transpose the music to Bass Clef. Here are instructions to do this quite easily.


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