Eighth Notes

Quarter Notes And Eighth Notes

By far, the two most important types of notes in the musical universe are quarter notes and eighth notes. Quarter notes sound once per beat, and are one beat in duration. Eighth notes are comprised of two equal sounds in the space of one beat, dividing the beat in two equal halves. The video below will get this lesson started off on the right foot.


In the preceding musical example you were working with various musical symbols, the large letter “C” is freely substituted for the numerical 4/4 time signature, the two different ways of writing 4/4 or common time. There are also two different types of written eighth notes that mean the same thing, those eighth notes individually marked with flags and those joined together by beams. Many students have had their lessons or rehearsals derailed as a result of being unfamaliar with the many symbols and conventions associated with reading music. Serious students take every opportunity to drill on the basics and to review and refresh their skills.


Alternate Picking

In modern guitar playing, pick style guitar playing, alternate picking is the universally accepted practice and convention when it comes to the reading and playing of eighth notes. In the video above you saw a demonstration of good alternate picking technique. Use the graphic below to practice playing eighth notes with good alternate picking technique, and in solid, steady time. If you are unclear at all about how to do this, I highly suggest you watch the preceding video again. I simply can not over emphasize the importance of developing and understanding excellent alternate picking technique.


Standard Operating Procedure

Standard operating procedures are the normal, established, accepted or prescribed methods of doing things. If you were writing a manual pertaining to the operation of automobiles you might implement a standard operating procedure of driving the car at or about 55 mph on the freeway. Of course, as a driver would be doing many other things while trying to maintain that target speed of approximately 55 mph. You might stop occasionally, go considerably slower and also considerably faster as the road ahead would naturally demand.

In music, I have always told my students that the use of mostly quarter notes and eighth notes is like a standard operating procedure. I haven’t done the math, but I can say with a high level of certainty that most of the music you will encounter will consist of predominantly quarter notes and eighth notes. It just happens to be the way that people naturally hear music and the way that most melodies normally flow. Of course, you will play many other types of notes during most pieces, in fact, you may do many other things during the course of playing a piece of music, such as speed up or slow down – you might even stop playing entirely.



So what is the best way to begin our study of eighth notes? Diving right into the permutations of course! When we introduce eighth notes into the mix number of possible measures (permutations) in 4/4 time increases to 241!


In this lesson, you will be using your G string to figure out and sound out the different and new permutations now including eighth notes. In the interactive diagrams to follow, I have identified and written out key rhythms for you to study.

Once again, it is important not to gloss over our skim over these exercises, you’re going for complete mastery and total understanding. At the risk of being repetitive, you are only finished with these exercises when you can look at them and send them out with your voice before confidently nailing them down on the guitar. Interestingly enough, operating procedure of music is mostly quarter notes and eighth notes so take this opportunity to gain a new level of understanding and proficiency in your rhythmic abilities.

In the top right corner of each one of the six exercises to follow you will see a large box marked “set”, this shows you the set of notes that I used to write that particular exercise with. In other words, every new and different permutation of that set of notes, that had exactly 4 beats, were included in the exercise. Your account, the numbers you should be saying either out loud are silently in your head, is drawn and beneath the staff. The “&” symbol standing in for the word “and” and the beats of the manager clearly indicated with the numbers 1234 in black. On top of the staff are up and down arrows which I used to indicate picking direction. Try to sound out these exercises slowly and in time before playing along with the recorded examples.

Permutations Including Rests

The exercise is being below are permutations using either one, two, part three beats of science in addition to eighth notes exclusively. By now, the steady thump thump thump of the bass drum is a good way for you to count and feel the beat. If you look at the music below you will see the numbers in the count directly below any of the rests are made to look hollow to remind you to keep counting. Music which contains a lot of rests presents its own set of challenges.

End Of Lesson 8


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