Reading and Writing Eighth Notes

One of the most commonly used rhythmic durations in modern music, and the one that is often the most fundamental when learning how to read rhythms, is the eighth note.

The eighth-note is exactly half the duration of 1 quarter-note, and fills an eighth of a bar of 4/4 time, which helps make sense of the name “eighth note.”

It can also be “subdivided” into other smaller units of rhythms, such as 2 16th-notes, 4 32nd-notes or 1 16th-note triplet as in the example below.

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In order to get eighth notes into your playing and practice routine, try the following exercise the next time you work on scales or arpeggios in the practice room.

1. Pick an arpeggio, for example a Cmaj7 arpeggio, and 1 fingering for that arpeggio to work on.
2. Start by playing only eighth notes, at a slow tempo, say 40 beats per minute.
3. When that is comfortable, increase the speed of the metronome.
4. To learn how the eighth notes relate to other rhythms, you can then play 1 bar of whole notes and 1 bar of eighth notes, or 1 bar of half notes followed by 1 bar of eighth notes etc.
5. Finally, you can play 1 bar of whole notes, 1 bar of half notes, 1 bar of quarter notes, 1 bar of 8th notes, 1 bar of 8th-note triplets, and 1 bar of 16th-notes, rotating through these 6 rhythms as you practice scales in the practice room.

Do you have a question or comment about eighth notes, or the scale exercise above? If so share it in the comments section below.