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Musical Notes - What Is A Minim?

Aug 11, 2008
A "minim" is a musical note that is widely used in piano sheet music. In fact, it's used in all sheet music for all musical instruments.

The minim has a hollow non-coloured oval shape with a stem on the right or left side depending on where on the staff it is written. When the minim is written higher up the staff or above the middle line, the stem will be written on the left side of the oval and pointing downwards. If it is below the middle line then the stem is written on the right side and pointing upwards. There are no hard and fast rules regarding this and ultimately whether to write the stem on left or right will be more for neatness and also to leave room for chord symbols and lyrics.

The minim is also referred to as a half note yet its musical time value is two beats. This is because the minim or half note should be referenced to the semibreve, which is worth four beats. Half of four equals two; the minim is worth two beats and is also half the value of a semibreve, hence the name half note.

An important reference note to all others, is the semibreve. A semibreve is also known as a whole note. Using simple fractions you can work out what different types of notes are called. We have already explained half notes, next would be quarter notes then eight notes and so on.

Also related to the minim is the minim rest or half rest. This is a musical silence worth two beats. A half rest is written as a small black rectangular box, which sits on the middle line of the staff.

Another relation to the minim is the dotted minim or dotted half note, which is worth three beats. It's useful to know that a dot written on the right side of any musical note, increases that's notes value by half as much again. So in the minims case, half of two equals one, add the one to the minims value of two, two plus one equals three.

Even though notes such as the minim, which we now know, can be referred to as a half note, it is useful to know the actual name of the note. The smallest note value in modern music is a sixty fourth note called a "hemidemsemiquaver" and the highest note value is called a "breve" which is worth eight beats and is not used anymore. Which is just as well or it would confuse things even more.
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