Five Minute Mozart ©

Rhythm - Eighth Notes

Run time: 4m 56s  |  Release Date: October 3rd, 2014

We already know that a whole note sounds for four beats, a half note sounds for two beats, and a quarter note for only one beat. Just like a half note is half of a whole note, and a quarter note is half of a half note, in the same sense an eighth note is half of a quarter note. This simply means that, just like it takes two half notes to fill the same amount of time as one whole note, and two quarter notes to fill the same amount of time as one half note, it will take two eight notes to fill the same amount of time as one quarter note, or beat. Two eigth notes equals one quarter note.

Now, you may be thinking, "How am I supposed to count half of a beat?" It is actually quite simple. In a situation like this, the first eighth note in any given beat is counted as the beat, meaning one - two - three - or four. This is also known as the down beat because it is the strongest part of the beat. The second eighth note in any given beat is known as the up beat and is counted by saying the word "And".

"One - AND - Two - AND - Three - AND - Four - AND".

Remember when counting eighth notes that each note accounts for two equal halves of a beat, none shorter or longer than the other. Count your eighth notes as evenly as possible without shortening or elongating the beat.

To further explain, let's take a look at a couple of measures which incorporate eighth notes. In the first measure, we see that beats one, two, and four contain quarter notes and beat three contains two eighth notes. The first eighth note in measure three will be counted as down beat three and the second eighth note will be counted as the up beat, "And". Like this:

"One - Two - Three AND - Four"

Notice how when counting the eighth notes in beat three I counted them slightly quicker than I counted the quarter notes. That is only because it takes two eighth notes to fill the same amount of time as one quarter note. Do not confuse this with speeding up the beat. The tempo of the beat remains the same throughout the entire measure.

Let's take a look at measure two. In measure two, beats one and four contain quarter notes and beats two and three are each divided into two equal halves, or eighth notes. Let's count:

"One - Two AND - Three AND - Four".

This is an eighth rest. Wherever there is an eighth rest you should remain silent for half of a beat. Just like an eighth note, an eighth rest could occur on either the down beat or the up beat.


Let's take a look at a few examples. In this first measure, beat three has an eighth note on the down beat and an eighth rest on the up beat. This simply means that you should play the first half of beat three but remain silent for the second half, like this:

"One - Two - Three (AND) - Four"

Now, in the second measure, the eighth note and the eighth rest are switched. On beat two the down beat this time contains an eighth rest and the up beat contains an eighth note. With this, you remain silent through the first half of the beat and back in with the word "And" on the up beat.

"One - (Two) AND - Three - Four".

Let's put the two measures together so we can hear it as a whole:

"One - Two - Three (AND) - Four  |  One (Two) AND - Three - Four".

In this next example we see that the very first note on the down beat of beat one is an eight note. Now, the up beat of beat one contains a quarter note. You might be thinking, "How is this possible if a quarter note sounds for one beat and we already have an eighth note in that beat? Wouldn't that be extending the beat?". Actually, the answer is no. We already know that quarter notes can be played from down beat to down beat, meaning from beat one to beat two, beat two to beat three, et cetera. Quarter notes can also be counted from up beat to up beat. Whenever there is an eighth note or eighth rest on the first half of a beat followed by a quarter note on the up beat, that quarter note sounds from the up beat of that beat to the up beat of the very next beat, like this:

"One AND - (Two) AND - Three - Four".