In music, a whole note (American) or semibreve (British) is a note represented by a hollow oval note head, like a half note (or minim), and no note stem (see Figure 1). Its length is typically equal to four beats in 4/4 time. Most other notes are fractions of the whole note; half notes are played for one half the duration of the whole note, quarter notes (or crotchets) are each played for one quarter the duration, etc. A whole note lasts half as long as a double whole note (or breve).
A related symbol is the whole rest (or semibreve rest), which usually denotes a silence for the same duration. Whole rests are drawn as filled-in rectangles hanging under the second line from the top of a musical staff.
The whole note and whole rest may also be used in music of free rhythm, such as Anglican chant, to denote a whole measure, irrespective of the time of that measure.
The whole note derives from the semibrevis of mensural notation, and this is the origin of the British name. The American name is a loan translation of the German Ganze Note.
The names of this note (and rest) in different languages vary greatly:
The French and Spanish names for the note (both meaning "round") derive from the fact that the semibrevis was distinguished by its round stemless shape, which is true as well of the modern form (in contrast to the double whole note or shorter values with stems). The Greek name means "whole".
Michael Miller wrote, "[t]he most basic note is called the whole note because ... it lasts a whole measure ..."
Longa · Double whole note (breve) · Whole note (semibreve) · Half note (minim) · Quarter note (crotchet) · Eighth note (quaver) · Sixteenth note (semiquaver) · Thirty-second note (demisemiquaver) · Sixty-fourth note (hemidemisemiquaver) · Hundred twenty-eighth note (semihemidemisemiquaver)
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