What to Know About the Whole Note

Playing a musical instrument is one of the best things you can do for your health.

No matter if you are young or old, learning an instrument helps you relax, challenges your mind, and keeps your fingers and body limber [1].

Music is made up of notes. Learning the significance of each note before stringing them together in a tune is an important first step to mastering your musical instrument.

Let’s look now at the whole note.

What Is a Whole Note?

What exactly is the “whole” note? No, we don’t mean “play the entire note”.

Also known as the “straight” note, think of the whole note as “large”. Complete.

It is the note with the longest time value in each measure [2].

Other notes are broken into “quarter,” “half,” and smaller notes. These are played with less length according to the full length of the “whole” note.

  • Four quarter notes equal one whole note.
  • Two half notes equal one whole note.

And so on. Read and also understand the dotted quarter note.

What Does a Whole Note Look Like?

The whole note is the simplest note when writing music.

Is a round circle or oval without a stem. The note sits on the line or space that represents the note you play.

How Long Is a Whole Note in Four beat?

In 4/4 time, the whole note gets four beats. It is held for the full measure.

However, it’s not always the only note in the measure.

The length of the note depends on the tempo you play. Faster tempos will have shorter whole notes, but the note still gets four full beats.

In fact, a whole note in a fast song can be shorter than a whole note in a slow song.

How to Count the Whole Note?

If you have a metronome, start it and listen to the beat. Count: 1, 2, 3, 4. If you don’t have a metronome, tap your foot steadily while you count.

Repeat this several times. When you get to “1”, play a note on your instrument and hold it until you get to “4”. Then release the note.

You’ve just played a whole note! Repeat it to practice holding a whole note for a full measure.

How Do I Use the Whole Note?

If you play a wind instrument, when you see a whole note in the measure, hold it for the length of the measure.

In an ensemble, other instruments might play quarter or half notes while you hold a whole note.

On a piano, one hand or one finger might hold a whole note or chord to support the melody while other fingers play a tune.

Most songs end with a whole note – a long, final chord or a single note held for a measure (or sometimes longer).

The Straight Truth about the Whole Note

The whole note is a simple yet important factor to consider when learning to play music.

Now that you understand its role, get to the piano or grab your instrument and practice.

If you’re ready to learn but not sure what instrument is right for you, check our Buyer’s Guide!

Stephanie Su

Started learning music when she was four years old, Stephanie is a music teacher and a music therapist who is highly proficient in Piano, Violin, Guitar, and Ukulele. She likes to learn, teach, and share her music playing experiences.

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