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A quarter note (American) or crotchet (British) is a note played for one quarter of the duration of a whole note (or semibreve). Often, musicians will say that a crotchet is one beat, however, this is not always correct, as the beat is indicated by the time signature of the music; a quarter note may or may not be the beat. Quarter notes are notated with a filled-in oval note head and a straight, flagless stem. The stem usually points upwards if it is below the middle line of the stave or downwards if it is on or above the middle line. However, the stem direction may differentiate more than one part. The head of the note also reverses its orientation in relation to the stem. (See image.)
In Unicode, the symbol is U+2669 (♩).
The note derives from the semiminima of mensural notation. The word crotchet comes from Old French crochet, meaning 'little hook', diminutive of croc, 'hook', because of the hook used on the note in black notation. However, because the hook appeared on the eighth note (or quaver) in the later white notation, the modern French term croche refers to an eighth note.
It is played for half the length of a minim (or "half note") and twice that of a quaver (an "eighth note"). It is one beat in a bar of 4/4. The term quarter note is a calque (loan translation) of the German term Viertelnote. The names of this note (and rest) in most languages are calqued from the same source:
|Language||note name||rest name|
|Catalan||negra||silenci de negra|
|Czech||čtvrťová nota||čtvrťová pauza|
|Galego||negra||silencio de negra|
|Greek||Tetarto (τέταρτο)||Pausi tetartou (παύση τετάρτου)|
|Italian||semiminima||pausa di semiminima|
|Portuguese||semínima||pausa de semínima|
|Russian||четвертная нота||четвертная пауза|
|Slovak||štvrťová nota||štvrťová pomlčka|
|Spanish||negra||silencio de negra|
|Turkish||dörtlük nota||dörtlük es|
The Galician, Catalan, French and Spanish names for the note (all of them meaning "black") derive from the fact that the semiminima was the longest note to be colored in mensural white notation, which is true as well of the modern form.
The Greek and Chinese names mean "quarter" (for the note) and "quarter's pause" (for the rest).
- Examples of the older symbol are found in English music up to the early 20th century, e.g. W. A. Mozart Requiem Mass, vocal score ed. W. T. Best, pub. London: Novello & Co. Ltd. 1879