Today’s episode is all about sixteenth notes – how to play them, how to count them, and some examples. This is a faster, more complex type of rhythm and definitely worth mastering – especially with how frequently they appear not only in beginner music, but intermediate and advanced as well.
Here we have 16th notes in various incarnations – grouped together, flying solo, and the 16th rest. They all mean the same thing, and get the same amount of beats – 1/4 of a beat, to be exact.
This means that 4 sixteenth notes can fit inside of 1 quarter beat. So if you set the metronome to a simple quarter note beat of, say, 80 bpm, you would play 4 notes in the time it takes for one beat to go by.
So yes, they’re usually fast.
Compare that to eighth notes – 2 eighth notes can fit inside of 1 quarter beat. 16th notes are twice as fast.
How to count 16th notes
On paper (or computer screen), I would write in the counts for a 16th note like this:
1 e + a, 2 e + a, etc.
because there are four 16th notes per quarter beat, to count them properly we must sub-divide the beat into 16ths.
If you recall counting 8th notes (check out this video on how to count 8th notes), we count like this:
1 + 2 +, etc.
So with 16th notes, we add an ‘e’ and an ‘a’, so we can count in 16th beats. Check out the video for examples! And no, there is no special meaning or significance to the ‘e’ and ‘a’ – saying “one ee and ah” simply rolls off the tongue easily.
Counting in 16th notes is very mathy. You have to think in fractions, and pay attention to where the counts line up with the actual notes/beats that you’re playing.
Practice counting 16th notes by looking up random music online, or looking in your own personal music collection, and then physically writing in the counts underneath the notes (like I did in this video). Once you start getting a feel for it, it becomes significantly easier. When you see fast rhythms in your music, you want to be able to identify them quickly and easily, without laboring over the counting, so I’m always a firm believer in good ol’ pencil and paper practice.
And, as always, have fun with it!