I have recently started practing with a metronome. So far i have kinda nailed quarter and 8th notes but i am having a problem with 16th notes. It appears that i cannot count the beats of the metronome, as well as the 4 16th notes that i play at each beat, at the same time. My question is how do YOU play 16th notes? By "feel" or do you count them along with the metronome beats. Thank you for your time guys.

2 Answers 2


It helps if you just listen to the metronome, tapping along with your foot and saying some four-syllable word on each beat (e.g. "caterpillar"). Each syllable then represents one 16th note, so you get a feeling for how 16th notes sound at the given tempo. As soon as you can hear the 16th notes in your head, you should also be able to play them.

I would recommend you use alternate picking, starting with a downstroke on the beat. Start repeating a single note in 16ths. Obviously, you want to start with a tempo where you don't immediately run into technical problems. Later you can start playing four different notes on a single string, then you can play a scale (fragment) over more than one string. Always keep it relaxed and remember that tone and articulation are more important than pure speed.

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    You could also say "1 e and a, 2 e and a, etc.". Caterpillar is much more fun to say though. :) Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 1:23

Notwithstanding Matt's answer, it depends on what the tempo is.

After a certain tempo [varies by individual] there is no longer any option to count 'verbally' - either in your head or out loud - you just have to feel it, because the 16ths can still sit nicely in your head long after any attempt to verbalise them will fail.

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    I agree. What I meant was to use words to get the sound of 16th notes into your head, of course at relatively slow tempos. As soon as you know how they sound, it won't be difficult to also feel them at higher tempos when you can't pronounce them any longer.
    – Matt L.
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 16:09
  • @MattL. - of course; agree completely - I meant mine to add to your answer rather than 'replace' it, but it felt 'more than a comment' so I added separately.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 16:11
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    Indeed, make sure you can sing or tap the rhythm before going to the instrument. Another way of verbalizing this figure is "Taka taka" -- that would be four sixteenth notes. ... When you're ready to go to the instrument, it can be helpful to practice in little chunks, for example, instead of playing 16 sixteenth notes all in a row, you could break it up like this: play the first four notes, plus the next note, to have a nice landing place, and pause; then do that again, but starting on beat 2; then start on beat 3, and so on. When that feels comfortable, play eight notes, plus the next note. Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 3:06

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