Every note has a rounded notehead which designates the pitch. Other differences, such as whether a note has a stem or is solid black, have to do with note value, which is length of time to hold a note.
The symbol for a whole note is a circle. A whole note is held for 4 beats.
The symbol for a half note is a circle with a stem.
Two half notes = one whole note
A quarter note is a solid black circle with a stem.
Four quarter notes = 1 whole note
An eighth note is a solid black circle with a stem and one flag. Two eighth notes are written with their flags as a single bar between them.
A sixteenth note is a solid black circle with a stem and two flags. Two sixteenth notes are written with their flags as a double bar between them.
A triplet divides one beat into 3 equal parts.
If a note has a dot on the side, another half of the value of the note is added to it. For example, a half note with a dot beside it represents 2 beats plus half of 2 beats which is 1 beat. So... 2+1=3.
= 4 beats
= 2 beats
= 1 beat
= 1/2 beat
= 3 beats
two eighth notes
dotted half note
Read Music Method for Adult Beginners is filled with page after page of songs and exercises to build confidence on each new skill needed for reading the language of music notation.
How to Read Music
dotted quarter note
= 1 1/2 beats
A sixteenth note can also be divided in half, creating 32nd notes. They have 3 flags, and are played very quickly!
Rests are symbols which mark a space of silence within music. See the chart at the top of this page to take a look at rest symbols and rest values.