Two hundred fifty-sixth note

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart used 128th and 256th notes in his Variations on "Je suis Lindor", K. 354.

In music, a two hundred fifty-sixth note is a note played for 1/256 of the duration of a whole note. It lasts half as long as a hundred twenty-eighth note and takes up one quarter of the length of a sixty-fourth note. In musical notation it has a total of six flags or beams.

Notes this short are very rare in printed music but not unknown. They are principally used for brief, rapid sections in slow movements. For example they occur in some editions of the second movement of Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto (Op. 37), to notate rapid scales.[1] Another example is in Mozart's Variations on "Je suis Lindor", where four of them are used in the slow twelfth variation.[2][3] A further example occurs in Jan Ladislav Dussek's Fifth Piano Sonata, Op. 10 No. 2.[4][5] They also occur in Vivaldi's Concerto, RV 444.[1]

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

Language note name rest name
Catalan semigarrapatea silenci de semigarrapatea
Dutch Tweehonderdzesenvijftigste noot Tweehonderdzesenvijftigste rust
French sextuple-croche soixante-quatrième de soupir
German Zweihundertsechsundfünfzigstelnote Zweihundertsechsundfünfzigstelpause
Italian semifusa, duecentocinquantasesto pausa di duecentocinquantasesto
Polish dwieściepięćdziesiątkaszóstka pauza dwieściepięćdziesięcioszóstkowa
Spanish semigarrapatea silencio de semigarrapatea

Even shorter notes[edit]

Some 128th notes with 5 beams are shown in this passage from Heinrich's Toccata Grande Cromatica. The pair of 2048th notes with 9 beams that appear at the end of this passage were notation errors; they should have been 1024th notes. Likewise, the seven 1024th notes that preceded it should have been 512th notes.[1]

The next note value shorter than the 256th note is the 512th note with seven flags or beams; it is half as long as the 256th note. After this would come the 1024th note (eight flags or beams), the 2048th note (nine flags or beams), the 4096th note (ten flags or beams), and so on indefinitely, with each note half the length of its predecessor. The shortest note value to have ever been used in a published work is the 1024th note (notated incorrectly as a 2048th note) in Anthony Philip Heinrich's Toccata Grande Cromatica from The Sylviad, Set 2, written around 1825; 256th and 512th notes also occur frequently in this piece.[1] For comparison, the shortest notated duration supported by Finale is a 4096th note,[6] while LilyPond can write beamed notes as short as a 1073741824th (= 2−30) note.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d Byrd, Donald (ongoing). "Extremes of Conventional Music Notation",
  2. ^ Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Zwölf Variationen in Es über die Romanze "Je suis Lindor"', K.354. p. 46, fifth system, first bar. Neue Mozart-Ausgabe. (
  3. ^ Thomas Bushnell BSG (8 November 2007). "Re: GPD: official shortest note in lilypond". 
  4. ^ [1] "The Theory of Music As Applied to the Teaching And Practice of Voice And ... - Louis Charles Elson - Google Books"]. [not in citation given]
  5. ^ Score of Dussek's Piano Sonata, Op. 10 No. 2 at IMSLP; the 256th notes appear on p.14 (p.3 of the pdf)
  6. ^ "Secondary Beam Break Selection". 
  7. ^ "Minimum possible duration".