How To Count 8th Notes As A Drummer

Counting 8th notes music tips

How do you count 8th notes as a drummer?

Great – and important – question!

In this article, I’m going to share my way of counting the common note value.

You’ll also learn how to count eighth rests.

Here’s How 8th Notes And Rests Look Like

Maybe you’re already familiar with 8th notes and rests.

If not, here’s how a single eighth note looks like:

Eighth note music symbol

And that’s an eighth rest:

Eighth rest symbol music

Please note that you will likely see several eighth notes tied together, learning a drum beat or fill.

This can look like the following example:

Drum rhythm with 8th notes

However, an eighth rest won’t be tied to another one.

You can extend it by adding a dot or change it to a quarter rest like the one you can see in our example.

How To Count 8th Notes

To understand the counting method for 8th notes, we must take a look at a bar.

Let’s look at the common 4/4 time signature.

As you might know, one eighth note (and rest) is as long as half of a quarter note.

This means:

You can divide a quarter note (or one quarter rest) into two 8th notes.

Just like this:

Quarter notes and 8th notes examples

Knowing this makes counting them way easier.

Let’s say, you count the quarters in a 4/4 bar like this:

How to count quarter notes

Each number (1, 2, 3, 4) represents a quarter note.

If you want to count eighth notes instead, you simply add a + to each quarter.

The number in combination with the + become two eighth notes:

Counting 8th notes snare drum

When counting, the + is referred to as “and”.

I’m sure you can say “plus” as well if you like.

And How Do You Count Eighth Rests?

Counting 8th notes and rests is basically the same.

There’s no need for changing the way you count these values.

Just continue counting.

In our 4/4 time signature, we go with the flow:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + etc.

However, the numbers will change with the time signature.

Let’s take a closer look at what this means – not only – for us drummers.

Counting 8th Notes – Watch Out For The Time Signatures!

When drumming in 3/4, for example, you count 8th notes and pauses like this:

Drumming in 3/4 counting method

Compare this way of counting to a quite similar bar in 4/4:

Drum patterns with eighth notes and quarters counting

See the difference?

You move on to the next bar after beat 3 +.

The same principles apply for each other bar on the drums.

Playing a bar of 12/8 blues drum beats? The last beat in the bar will be 12 or 6 + depending on your counting method.

Drumming eighth notes in 5/4? After the 5 +, you come back to the 1 in a new bar.

So basically, that’s what you need to know about counting 8th notes and rests as a drummer.

Let me know if you have an additional question.

I’m glad to answer it in the comments below. 🙂


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Author: Manu Holmer

Hi, I'm Manu Holmer, nice to meet you! As a professional drummer and drum teacher, my vision is to help others transform their lives with the power of music. Let's not only play the drums. Feel the rhythm & and walk to our own beats!

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