Dividing Beats

Feel the Pulse


Eighth Notes and Sixteenth Notes

You learned about rhythmic notation by studying the symbols for notes. You learned about whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes. But did you know that these notes can be divided even further? A quarter note can be divided in half, into eighth notes. There are two eighth notes in the duration of one beat, or one quarter note. A sixteenth note divides the beat even further. A sixteenth note is half the duration of an eighth note, or one-quarter of a beat. For each quarter note, you could play four sixteenth notes. The following note tree will help you understand. You see that each note can be divided into equal units, which are shown on the next row of the tree.
A note tree shows the following; 1 whole note = 2 half notes, 1 half note = 2 quarter notes, 1 quarter note = 2 eighth notes, 1 eighth note = 2 sixteenth notes. Eighth and sixteenth notes can stand alone, or they can be connected by a beam.
whole note

A whole note is an open oval with no stem. The oval is horizontal in orientation.

4 beats
half note

A half note is an open oval with a stem extending up from the right side.

2 beats
quarter note

A quarter note has a solid oval body and a vertical stem with no flag.

1 beat
eighth note

An eighth note consists of a solid oval with a stem extending upward from the right apex of the oval. A single pointed flag extends to the right from the top of the stem.

one-half beat
sixteenth note

A sixteenth note is a filled oval with a stem extending up from its right side. The stem has two flags at the top. The tips of the flags converge.

one-fourth beat


Keep the following principles in mind:

  • Different types of notes have different parts: note head   The note head can be open or filled in., stem The note stem is a straight vertical line. , and flag A music note flag resembles a long pennant drooping in a slight breeze..
  • Note heads on whole notes and half notes are never filled in.
  • Eighth notes have a single flag. Sixteenth notes have a double flag.
  • Notice that the eighth notes and sixteenth notes on the left side of the note tree are separated. The eighth notes and sixteenth notes on the right side of the note tree are connected by beams. Both methods are correct.