Playing Rhythm Guitar: Basics Part 7 – Understanding Eighth Notes


In the Rhythm Guitar Basic Tutorials 1-6, we looked at whole notes, half notes, quarter notes and their respective rests.

But as you may already be aware, that just scratched the surface of common rhythm patterns that you need to know as a guitar player.

When you play rhythm guitar, some of the most common rhythms you will encounter use eighth notes.

In this tutorial we begin our look at the basics of eighth notes.

Here is what a single eighth note in standard notation looks like:

eighth note

Here is an eighth note in rhythmic notation:

eighth note rhythmic notation

When eighth notes are in pairs their beams are usually joined.

eighth note pair

Counting Eighth Notes

The eighth note is held for ½ of a beat. This means we need to divide the beat into half.

So we count eighth notes as follows:

counting eighth notes


Here is the same rhythm in rhythmic notation.

counting eighth notes rhythmic notation

How to Use the Metronome for Playing Eighth Notes

As you will recall from Playing Rhythm Guitar: Basics Part 2 – Using a Metronome to Improve Your Sense of Rhythm, the metronome is used to help you build a rock solid sense of rhythm.

The way you use a metronome doesn’t change as you start to practice eighth notes.

The metronome will still mark off beats 1, 2, 3 and 4.

counting eighth notes with metronome

Now it’s time to clap the above eighth note rhythm pattern.

Clap and count out loud and as you do.  Be sure to tap your foot in time with the metronome.

Repeat the above example at least ten times before moving on to what follows.

It is crucial that you get the basic eighth note pattern down.

Combining Eighth Notes and Quarter Notes

Now here is the next pattern to practice.

This one switches from quarter notes to eighth notes.

rhythm ex 1 8th notes

Practice this pattern at slow, moderate and quick speeds.

Don’t go faster than you can accurately perform the passage. Accuracy is the most important factor as you practice these rhythms.

Over the next 7 days, clap and count out loud the example we just looked at.

Practice it whenever and wherever you can.

Bear in mind that you can practice this inconspicuously by lightly tapping on the side of your thigh as you count the rhythm pattern mentally.

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