top of page

Rhythmic Dictation | How To Read Sixteenth Notes

Just like a whole note can be divided into two equal half notes, a half note into two equal quarter notes, and a quarter note into two equal eighth notes, an eighth note can be divided into two equal sixteenth notes.


Now if it takes two equal eighth notes to fill the same amount of time as one quarter note, and two sixteenth notes equals one eighth note, then we should know that it will take four equal sixteenth notes to fill one quarter note, or beat.


There are four beats in a measure with a 4/4 time signature and each beat can be divided into four equal sixteenth notes. That means that in one measure there can be up to 16 equal sixteenth notes.


We already know that in order to count eighth notes the first eighth note, or the down beat, is counted as the beat.

And the second eighth note, the up beat, is counted by saying the word “And”. Being that sixteenth notes are a subdivision of the eighth note, the way that you count the down beat and the up beat will remain the same.

The remaining sixteenth notes will be counted by saying “EE” and “Ah”.


When counting rhythm in music it is very important to feel the pulse of four equal sixteenth notes in every single beat no matter what kind of note is in each beat. This is by far the easiest way to ensure that you stay within rhythm.

This here is a sixteenth rest. A sixteenth rest looks very familiar to an eighth rest except that, just like a sixteenth note, it has two flags instead of just one. Wherever a single sixteenth rest is present you will remain silent for one fourth of a beat.


Unfortunately it is not always so easy to count sixteenth notes. Frequently, certain sixteenth notes within a beat will be omitted. Let’s see what it would sound like if the very first sixteenth note within a given beat was actually a sixteenth rest.

In this measure, beats one and four each contain a quarter note and beat two contains four equal sixteenth notes. Measure three is broken down into sixteenth notes as well with very first sixteenth note omitted and replaced with a sixteenth rest. When counting beat three start by saying “EE” on the subdivision of the down beat, or what would be the second sixteenth note within the beat.


Let’s now see what it sounds like when we omit the second sixteenth note in any given beat. In this situation the down beat is played as an eighth note and the up beat is divided into two equal sixteenth notes omitting the “EE” of “One - EE - And - Ah”. Remember that an eighth note takes up the same amount of time as two sixteenth notes. Whenever certain sixteenth notes are omitted, an eighth note may be used to fill its space.


How about if we were to omit the third sixteenth note “And”. Omitting the third sixteenth note would mean that the third sixteenth note pulse will be played by an eighth note. Putting an eighth note in place the of second sixteenth note means that it would sustain through the “And” part of the beat.


Finally, what if we omitted the last sixteenth note in each beat, or “AH” of “One - EE - And - Ah”. Doing so would mean that the third sixteenth note in each beat, the up beat, would become an eighth note and sustain until the next down beat.

bottom of page