I have a question about the term quarter note. I thought of putting clarity in the question by doing a little calculation.

Let us say BPM = 120 .So Beat time is 0.5 s. So in 4/4 signature the quarter note lasts for 0.5 s. Now measure time is 0.5x4 = 2 seconds. And the quarter note really occupies a quarter of measure time.

But suppose we have 3/4 signature. Again,say, BPM is same so beat time is 0.5 s. So this is the duration of the quarter note. But now the measure time is 3x0.5 = 1.5 s. So quarter note really lasts for 1/3 rd of measure time. Still it is called a quarter note? Or is it simply understood that a quarter note is a true quarter note only in relation to 4/4 signature?

• You could also call it a crotchet or (in older music) a semiminim. The note by itself does not have a fixed proportion to other notes; that depends on the meter. Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 16:34

A quarter note is called that because it is always a quarter the duration of a whole note. This true regardless of the time signature, tempo, or number of beats in a bar. You will notice that in 3/4, a whole note does not fit into a measure.

• But, a whole rest can be used for a measure of rest in 3/4. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 23:10
• True. But that's just a minor notational convenience designed to drive people with OCD nuts. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 23:11
• Call 'em crotchets and the whole problem becomes moot. :D
– user16935
Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 23:48
• @Patrx2: Indeed so, while creating a host of other problems that are worse, of course. Can you say semihemidemisemiquaver? I can, but only with difficulty after years of practice. :D Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 5:21
• There's an irony in such a short note having such a long name! And there's even shorter ones with even longer names!
– Tim
Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 6:13

It's true that a crotchet is though of as a 1/4 note - taken from a 'whole note' being a semibreve (worth 4 crotchets). However, the word semibreve comes from half a breve, which actually intimates that a whole note SHOULD be worth 8 crotchets - or - a crotchet OUGHT to be a 1/8 note...

• Wait, but isn't a breve == 8 crochets? Got a place where I can read more about this? Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 14:31
• Tim's point is that a breve is a "whole" entity, so a semibreve, being half a breve, is not; therefore a breve should be a whole note, and a by extension a 128th note should be a 256th note, and so on. The opposing point is that since the semibreve/whole note has been the largest value in general use for at least 200 years, calling a semibreve a whole note is reasonable. I fall in the latter camp. Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 21:43
• @BobRodes - you're right, of course. It's just the pedant in me surfacing. Still a bit odd that we (U.S. particularly) base the system on something somewhat 'spurious'.
– Tim
Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 7:59
• @Tim I got one of those pedants, too. :) Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 18:00
• @BobRodes - yes, they just keep hanging around...
– Tim
Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 18:27