Part 4: 16th Notes
In the last installment of this series we explored reading and playing 8th notes and 8th-note rests. We learned that one 8th note lasts half as long as a quarter note, and we counted 8th notes out loud by saying, “1-&, 2-&, 3-&, 4-&.” We also combined 8th-note rhythms with the previous material covered in this series. In this article we’re going to work on the next rhythmic subdivision, 16th notes.
A 16th note’s duration lasts half as long as an 8th note’s, meaning we can fit two 16th notes in the same amount of time as an 8th note. Since we can fit two 8th notes in the space of one quarter note, that means that we can fit four 16th notes in the space of one quarter note. Likewise, sixteen 16th notes can fit into one measure of 4/4. Let’s take a moment to review each level of notation and its corresponding duration.
Counting 16th Notes
With the addition of more notes per beat comes the need to count and subdivide differently. The most popular method of counting 16th notes is by saying, “1-e-&-a, 2-e-&-a, 3-e-&-a, 4-e-&-a.” With this method, the “e” is pronounced like “bee” without the “b,” and “a” is pronounced “uh.” Remember that you’ll count four subdivided notes in the space of one beat, meaning “1-e-&-a” will all be in the space of beat 1, “2-e-&-a” will fit within the space of beat 2, and so on. Let’s practice this by counting quarter notes, 8th notes, and 16th notes consecutively. Be sure to tap your foot on the beat or count along with a metronome. A great place to start is around 60–65 bpm.
Playing 16th Notes
In each of the exercises below, you should practice counting the rhythms out loud first, and then play them while continuing to count. As always, be sure to tap your foot on the beat and use a metronome. The first set of exercises focuses on getting you comfortable playing 16th notes with quarter notes and 8th notes.
Now let’s practice combining 16th notes with the material we’ve covered so far in the previous lessons.