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Rhythmic Dictation | How To Read Eighth Notes

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, 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 eighth notes to fill the same amount of time as one quarter note, or beat.


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 known as the down beat because it is the strongest part of the beat.


The second eighth note in any given beat is the upbeat and is counted by saying the word “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 beat three will be counted as down beat three and the second eighth note will be counted as the upbeat, “And”.