Grace Notes: Crochet or quarter note?

Over the course of my life so far I have done a lot of orchestral playing with people from all over the world. And, seeing as my course is an international one, all of the rehearsals here are taken in English, so for me I haven’t noticed any real difference between orchestral projects here and back in the UK. There is one thing however, that sometimes makes rehearsals very difficult, and that is the naming of the note values.

In the UK, a four beat note is called a semibreve, a two beat note is called a minim, a one beat note is called a crotchet….. and this continues. Here’s a diagram to explain it better.

uk note values.png

I have grown up calling notes these and referring to these names without even thinking in rehearsals. Here however, I have to get used to the other naming method.

In the rest of the world they call a four beat note a whole note, a two beat note a half note, a one beat note a quarter note, and so on. Here’s another diagram.

us note values.png

It makes an awful lot of sense! But I’m really struggling to get my head round it in the spur of the moment.

For example in a rehearsal a couple of weeks ago I was banging on about ‘quavers’ and was getting a lot of blank stares. I realised this was because the others in the room hadn’t got any idea what I meant by talking about ‘quavers’ (I should have said an eighth note).

So now I’m really trying to make an effort to talk in half notes and quarter notes, rather than minims and crotchets…. But it does mean that every time I want to say a note name I have to mentally go ‘so a whole note is a semibreve, so a minim is a half note, so a crotchet is a quarter note….’ until I get to the note value I need…..

I definitely need some practice!

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