Half note

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This article is about the musical note. For the jazz club, see Half Note Club.
Figure 1. A half note with stem facing up, a half note with stem facing down, and a half rest.
Whole note Half note Quarter note Eighth note Sixteenth note Thirty-second note
Comparison of duple note values (whole note = 2×half note, etc.).

In music, a half note (American) or minim (British) is a note played for half the duration of a whole note (or semibreve) and twice the duration of a quarter note (or crotchet). In time signatures with a bar length of 4 beats, such as 4/4 or 3/4 time, the half note is two beats long.

Half notes are notated with a hollow oval note head (like a whole note) and a straight note stem with no flags (like a quarter note; see Figure 1). The half rest (or minim rest) denotes a silence for the same duration. Half rests are drawn as filled-in rectangles sitting on top of the middle line of the musical staff. As with all notes with stems, half notes are drawn with stems to the right of the note head, facing up, when they are below the middle line of the staff. When they are on or above the middle line, they are drawn with stems on the left of the note head, facing down. Its rhythm syllables are ta-ah. The note derives from the minima in mensural notation, which is Latin for 'least or smallest,' because at one stage it was the shortest of all note values used. The word minim comes from this name. The American term half note is a 19th-century loan translation of German halbe Note.

The names of this note (and rest) in other languages vary greatly:

Language note name rest name
Catalan blanca silenci de blanca
Chinese 二分音符 二分休止符
Dutch halve noot halve rust
French blanche demi-pause
German halbe Note halbe Pause
Greek Imisi/miso (ήμισι/μισό) Pafsi imiseos/pafsi misou (παύση ημίσεος/παύση μισού)
Italian minima pausa di minima
Japanese 2分音符 2分休符
Korean 2분음표 2분쉼표
Polish półnuta pauza półnutowa
Portuguese mínima pausa de mínima
Russian половинная нота половинная пауза
Serbian polovin(k)a / половин(к)а polovinska pauza / половинска пауза
Spanish blanca silencio de blanca
Thai โน๊ตตัวขาว ตัวหยุดตัวขาว

The Catalan, French and Spanish names for the note (all meaning "white") derive from the fact that the minima was the shortest unfilled note in mensural white notation, which is true as well of the modern form. The form in the earlier black notation resembles the modern quarter note (crotchet). The Greek, Chinese, Japanese and Korean names mean "half" and in Greek, both the modern word (miso - μισό) and the older (imisi - ήμισι) are used. For the rest, the word "pafsi" (παύση) is used; this means "pause".

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