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How to play Sixteenth Notes - Free Beginner Drum Lesson

Updated: Mar 12, 2020

Hello and welcome back to another free drum lesson from Hackney Wick Drum Studio.

This is the last in a series of introductory drum lessons focusing on learning the most important note values we use when learning to play the drums.

Today, we'll be taking a look at my favourite - the sixteenth note (semi-quaver).

The first thing to understand is now we can have a maximum of sixteen of these per bar (as the name would suggest). That means we can have four per beat. A single sixteenth note lasts for a quarter of a beat, which means it half as long in value as the eighth note.

We count the sixteenth note 1e&a 2e&a 3e&a 4e&a.

Take a look at the example exercise below and you'll se what I mean.

Like I always say, when practicing this on your pad or snare drum, the key thing is to start it slow. It couldn't be more important with the sixteenth note because there are so many of them to fit into each bar.

Now that we're encountering more notes in the bar, I find that many beginner students see this as an opportunity to do their first 'drum roll', and go hell for leather without paying attention to the metronome. More notes doesn't mean we're playing faster tempo wise, but just fitting more notes into the same space of time.

The second thing to note is the sticking. Like usual, I have given you two ways to play this piece. The first is the alternate sticking, RLRL etc. The second line is the double stroke, so RRLLRRLL and so on.

Check out the video below of me playing the piece. The first two bars are alternate sticking. The second two bars are double stroke. See if you can spot the difference.

And here's the same thing played again, only this time at 90 BPM

The next thing to take a look at is the sixteenth note rest. As we've learned in previous lessons, you simply just don't play where you see a rest, for the duration of that note.

Below you'll see a few short bars containing sixteenth note rests. Don't get too hung up on these as we wouldn't usually encounter something written like this. There's a simpler and far better way of writing music that means we won't need it, but more on that in a future drum blog.

As I said, you'd never encounter something written like this. But the purpose of it is for you to be able to count the full sixteen notes in each bar (remember your 1e&a 2e.....etc). See how you go with this and practice it until you gain an understanding of how the sixteenth note and sixteenth note rest works.

Next, see if you can play through the following piece. It's a simple four bar snare drum exercise incorporating everything we've learned up to this point. Remember, make sure your notes are evenly spaced with the numbered notes landing on the click.

This is a great Snare Drum exercise. When you're just getting to grips with the different note values, it really helps you see how all the notes correspond to each other. Below is a video of me playing it at 90BPM. I would recommend starting it off at 60 BPM and take it from there, focusing specifically on getting all of your notes to sound as even as possible.

And thats it, if you've managed to play along with the above video, you've passed the test. We'll be getting onto the real thing over the next few drum blogs so keep coming back as I'm adding new content to the site weekly. If you've missed any of the previous drum lessons, you can check them out by visiting the blog.

As always any feedback or questions, leave them in the comments below.

Don't forget, I also offer 1-2-1 drum lessons here at my drum studio in Hackney Wick. So if you're ever near by, or you're looking for drum lessons or a drum teacher in East London, head over to Hackney Wick Drum Studio to get in contact, or book a lesson online.

Thats all for this time, but come back in a few days where i'll be showing you the final lesson in the note value series - a combination exercise of everything we've learned so far. You can check that out here.

Thanks for checking our my drum blog on drum lessons for beginners

See you next time


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