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Lesson 4: Eighth Notes and Eighth Rests
How to Subdivide the Beat

Practice PatternsLesson 4 Practice Patterns


Lessons 1 through 3 have explained note values that are at least one beat in duration. However, there are several note values which are shorter than one beat. When we play notes that are shorter than a beat, we are subdividing the beat.

Eighth Notes

The first subdivision that we will learn is the eighth note, which divides a quarter note beat into two equal parts.

Single eighth notes look similar to quarter notes, but they have a flag which extends from the stem of the note. When eighth notes occur on or above the middle staff line, the stem usually extends downward.

Single eighth notes with stems up and down

Eighth notes that occur in groups of two or four are connected at the end of each stem with a beam.

Eighth notes connected by beams with stems up and stems down

The eighth note is equal to half the length of a quarter note. Therefore, a quarter note is equal to two eighth notes tied together. Here are examples of the note values we have learned so far, and how many tied eighth notes they equal.

One quarter note equals two tied eighth notes:
One quarter note equals two tied eighth notes

One half note equals four tied eighth notes:
One half note equals four tied eighth notes

One dotted half note equals six tied eighth notes:
One dotted half note equals six tied eighth notes

One whole note equals eight tied eighth notes:
One whole note equals eight tied eighth notes

When we subdivide the beat into two equal parts, we call the second half of each beat “and.” The word “and” is most easily abbreviated with the “+” sign.

How to count eighth notes in 4/4 time

Eighth Rests

Just as the eighth note is equal to half of a quarter note, the eighth rest is equal to half of a quarter rest. It consists of one slanted line with a flag attached at the top, as shown below.

The eighth rest

How to count rhythms with eighth rests

When we clap and count rhythms that subdivide the beat, it is very important to count every subdivision or “and” to make sure that we keep a steady beat and perform the rhythms accurately. If you are practicing music that includes eighth notes, always count “and” on the second half of each beat, even in sections where there are no eighth notes.

When you first practice the rhythm patterns in this lesson, try using a duple subdivision metronome like the one found on www.MetronomeBot.com. The metronome produces a high click sound on the beat, and a low click sound on the second half of each beat. When you are comfortable with the eighth notes, try using a standard metronome that clicks on every beat.

Practice SuggestionsLesson 4 Practice Suggestions

Practice PatternsLesson 4 Practice Patterns

Lesson 4 Practice Patterns

Learn dotted quarter notes in Lesson 5.

To learn how to play eighth notes with practice patterns and audio examples, get the book The Fundamentals of Rhythm, by Kyle Coughlin.

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The Book

Kyle Coughlin’s book, The Fundamentals of Rhythm, is a step-by-step method book with clear explanations of beat, tempo, meter, time signature, note values, and many other rhythmic concepts. It includes 22 lessons with more than 450 practice patterns to help you learn the fundamental aspects of rhythm. Audio recordings of the patterns (performed by RhythmBot) are available on this website. The book is available in both print and PDF editions, and can be used by any musical instrument. Learn more about the book here.

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