Once you've gotten through your whole, half, and quarter notes, it's time to get to the interesting rhythms in between the beats. Your next step is 8th notes. Let me show you some simple steps to getting your eighth note grooves rock solid.
First off, a single eighth note is worth half of a beat. That means that one whole beat contains two eighth notes. Now, what the heck is half a beat?
It's a common mistake to think of the beat as the click of your metronome. But that's not quite right. Actually, the beat is the time between one click and the next. Picture it like a ruler...
All of that space in between is "the beat". And that time can be divided up into smaller amounts of time. Like this...
That star represents where the eighth note in the middle of the beat would go.
When you count quarter notes, you're simply counting 1 2 3 4. But now that we're playing in between the beats we need another syllable to put in there. So we're going to count
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & - See, two eighth notes for each beat.
The first eighth note is called the downbeat. If you're tapping your foot (which you should) that's when your foot goes down. The "&" is called the upbeat. That is when your foot comes up.
Follow these steps, making sure you can do each correctly before moving on. You'll have 8th notes down in no time!
1. Tap your foot and count 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &, with your foot going down on the numbers and up on the ands.
2. Set your metronome at a medium, comfortable tempo. Do the same foot tapping/counting thing, making sure that your foot goes down on the click and up in between. Keep your ups and downs evenly spaced.
3. Keeping your metronome at the same tempo, clap 8th notes. Again, make sure you're clapping once on the click and then evenly in between the clicks. Always count out loud.
4. Place your hands of your lap. Start by setting up a quarter note rhythm with your left hand by patting your leg. Every hit right on the click. Now, at the same time, pat an 8th note rhythm on your right leg with your right hand. On the beat your hands will come down together. On the and just your right hand with come down.
5. Now grab your guitar (finally, right?). When you play 8th notes on the guitar you're going to double pick. That means use a down stroke on the click and an up stroke on the and. Grab any note you like. Fretted notes seem to be easier at first. With your metronome at the same tempo as before practice picking 8th notes. Down stroke on the click. Up stroke on the upbeat. Make sure to keep your foot tapping. Everything goes up and down at the same time.
6. Lastly take a simple warm-up exercise like just running fingers 1 2 3 4 up each string. Try playing that as an 8th note rhythm. You could also do it with any scale patterns you know.
By this point you should be on your way to some solid eighth note playing. If you're not quite feeling it yet, just repeat those 6 steps a few times and it will come together.
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