A rest indicates a silence of an equivalent duration.
|Note||Rest||American name...||British name...|
|breve (or double whole note)||breve|
|hundred twenty-eighth note||Quasihemidemisemiquaver / Semihemidemisemiquaver|
The breve appears in several different versions, as shown at right.
Sometimes the longa is used to indicate a very long note of indefinite duration, as at the end of a piece.
When a stem is present, it can go either up (from the right side of the note head) or down (from the left side, except in the case of the longa). In most cases, the stem goes down if the notehead is on the center line or above, and up otherwise. Any flags always go to the right of the stem.
When two or more notes which would normally have flags (eighth notes or shorter) appear successively, the flags may be replaced by beams, as shown at right. Notes are typically beamed only if they appear in the same beat within the bar. Beams also imply that the notes should be slightly more connected than non-beamed notes.
In the 13th century, chant was sometimes performed according to rhythmic modes, roughly equivalent to meters; however, the note shapes still did not indicate duration in the same way as modern note values.
This black mensural notation gave way to white mensural notation around 1450, in which all note values were written with white (outline) noteheads. In white notation the use of triplets was indicated by coloration, i.e. filling in the noteheads to make them black (or sometimes red). Both black and white notation periodically made use of ligatures, a holdover from the clivis and porrectus neumes used in chant.
Around 1600 the modern notational system was generally adopted, along with barlines and the practice of writing multipart music in scores rather than only individual parts. In the 17th century, however, old usages came up occasionally.
The American names are loan translations of the German terms: when American orchestras were first established in the 19th century they were populated to a significant degree by German emigrants.