Everything You Need to Know About Eighth Notes

If you want to play jazz, blues, rock, reggae, folk, or any other contemporary music, eighth notes are the key. Also called a quaver, the eighth note is responsible for syncopation.

This article provides everything you need to know about eighth notes.

Better check the treble clef, too.

Some Basic Music Theory

When looking at a piece of sheet music you see it split up by measures, which look like rectangular boxes. Measures read sequentially, from left to right. Running through each row of measures are five lines.

In the key of C, the bottom line is the note E, followed by G, B, D, and F. The spaces between the lines, also, represent notes. In C, the bottom space is the note F, followed by A, C, and E.

Within each measure, located on lines or spaces, are the notes which are to be played. The shape of the note indicates the time duration the note is to be played.

Each measure will contain the total number of beats that are indicated by the pieces time signature. In a time signature of 4/4, each measure receives four beats, represented by the first number. The second number in the time signature indicates how many beats are given to a whole note.

In 4/4, the whole note receives four beats, and each measure contains four beats. In a time signature of 3/4, the whole note gets four beats and each measure contains three beats. Since a whole note of four beats cannot occupy a measure of three beats the note must be separated into smaller pieces.

Everything You Need to Know about Eighth Notes

If a whole note receives four beats, an eighth note is a half beat. An eighth note is one eighth the value of a whole note. So, it takes 8 eighth notes, 4 quarter notes, 2 half notes, or 1 whole note to fill a measure of four beats.

How Long is an Eighth Note?

Eighths are essential for rock music, as Rock is dependent on the syncopation of the beat. Try tapping on your leg in counts of four beats. The easiest way to keep your beats consistent is to use a free online metronome [1].

One tap per second, where the number is in rhythm with the tap. Pretend you’re a rock drummer counting in the band, like AC/DC in Back in Black [2]. When you say, “one”, you tap the leg, then again on “two”, and so on, to “four.” These are quarter notes that fall on the beat.

When your hand taps your leg, it is on the down-beat, hence, your hand comes down to tap your leg. Between down-beats, when your hand is above your leg, say “and”. It will sound, like “one, and two, and three, and four.”

Now, on the other leg tap two beats for every one tap on the first leg. So, the first leg gets four taps, and in the same amount of time, the other leg gets eight taps. These are eighth notes, which constitute the “and” of the beat, or the upbeat.

Final Thoughts

Eighth notes split a quarter note in half.

Without the ability to notate music on the upbeat of a measure, rock music as we know it would sound very different. To learn more about music notation, theory, and resources subscribe to our newsletter for the most recent blog posts. And, if you found this article helpful, share it on social media. Thanks for reading! Oh, if you are looking for another note, check out the sixteenth note.

Stephanie Su

Started learning music when she was four years old, Stephanie is a music teacher and a music therapist who is highly proficient in Piano, Violin, Guitar, and Ukulele. She likes to learn, teach, and share her music playing experiences.

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