Durations

The durations of notes are entered using numbers and dots. The number entered is based on the reciprocal value of the length of the note. For example, a quarter note is designated using the numerical value of 4 as it is a 1/4 note, a half note using 2, an eighth using 8 and so on. Durations as short as 1024 notes can be entered but shorter values, while possible, can only be entered as beamed notes. Also see Beams.

For notes longer than a whole use the \longa – double breve – and \breve commands. A note with the duration of a quadruple breve is possible using the \maxima command but is only supported within ancient music notation. See Ancient notation.

\relative {
  \time 8/1
  c''\longa c\breve c1 c2
  c4 c8 c16 c32 c64 c128 c128
}

[image of music]

Here are the same durations with automatic beaming turned off.

\relative {
  \time 8/1
  \autoBeamOff
  c''\longa c\breve c1 c2
  c4 c8 c16 c32 c64 c128 c128
}

[image of music]

Isolated durations – durations without a pitch – that occur within a music sequence will take their pitch from the preceding note or chord.

\relative {
  \time 8/1
  c'' \longa \breve 1 2
  4 8 16 32 64 128 128
}

[image of music]

Isolated pitches – pitches without a duration – that occur within a music sequence will take their duration from the preceding note or chord. If there is no preceding duration, then default for the note is always 4, a quarter note.

\relative { a' a a2 a a4 a a1 a }

[image of music]

Place a dot (.) after the duration to obtain ‘dotted’ note lengths. Double-dotted notes are specified by appending two dots, and so on.

\relative { a'4 b c4. b8 a4. b4.. c8. }

[image of music]

To avoid clashing with staff lines, dots on notes are normally moved up. In polyphonic situations however, they can be placed, manually, above or below the staff as required. See Direction and placement.

Some note durations cannot be represented using just numbers and dots but only by tying two or more notes together. See Ties.

To specify durations that align the syllables of lyrics and notes together see Vocal music.

Notes can also be spaced proportionately to their duration, see Proportional notation.

Predefined commands

\autoBeamOn, \autoBeamOff, \dotsUp, \dotsDown, \dotsNeutral.

Selected Snippets

Alternative breve notes

Breve notes are also available with two vertical lines on each side of the notehead instead of one line and in baroque style.

\relative c'' {
  \time 4/2
  c\breve |
  \override Staff.NoteHead.style = #'altdefault
  b\breve
  \override Staff.NoteHead.style = #'baroque
  b\breve
  \revert Staff.NoteHead.style
  a\breve
}

[image of music]

Changing the number of augmentation dots per note

The number of augmentation dots on a single note can be changed independently of the dots placed after the note.

\relative c' {
  c4.. a16 r2 |
  \override Dots.dot-count = 4
  c4.. a16 r2 |
  \override Dots.dot-count = 0
  c4.. a16 r2 |
  \revert Dots.dot-count
  c4.. a16 r2 |
}

[image of music]

See also

Music Glossary: breve, longa, maxima, note value, Duration names notes and rests.

Notation Reference: Beams, Ties, Stems, Writing rhythms, Writing rests, Vocal music, Ancient notation, Proportional notation.

Snippets: Rhythms.

Internals Reference: Dots, DotColumn.

Known issues and warnings

While there is no fundamental limit to rest durations (longest or shortest), there is a limit to the number of glyphs possible so only rests between 1024 and \maxima may be printed.


LilyPond Notation Reference v2.25.14 (development-branch).