If you accept that the whole of anything is one and that one can then be cut in half and half again, this will simplify the understanding of basic note construction. It is just basic fractions.
For ease of explanation we will look at 4/4 timing to explain the note values.
4/4 timing means that there are 4 quarter notes (or beats) played in each bar. The top or first number, 4, is the number of beats counted in each bar. The bottom or second number (in this case, 4) is the value of those beats.
For the purposes of beginner training, we will concentrate on notes only up to 1/8 in value.
Take one bar as being 1 whole note and cut it in half you get 2 halves or 2 half notes. Cut this in half again and you get 4 quarter notes. Half again and you get 8 eighth notes etc. If you set a constant tempo for the passage of music, you would play four times as many quarter notes in the same time it would take to play one whole note.
CountingWhen you are learning to read and play drums, counting is of critical value. For quarter notes count: 1 2 3 4.
While you are learning and practicing, it is an important advantage to count aloud.
Eighth notes count: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &.
Sixteenth notes: 1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a.
A good thing to remember is that the notes you play are important but the notes you do not play are just as important. This is where 'rests' come into play.
A rest is a note that is not played. The rest however takes the same time space as a note. In the above quarter note example, you would count 1, 2, 3, 4 but play 1, 2, 3, and rest on the 4.