Rhythm Exercises – Part 2 (Intermediate)


Building off of our previous article (Rhythm Exercises Part 1 – Easy) this article features the next level up in our rhythm exercises. But let’s get some important points out of the way before jumping in. First, you really need to be using a metronome for these exercises. Many students think “oh, I have a good sense of time so I don’t really need the metronome.” Then after struggling to play with the metronome they’ll say something like “using the metronome actually kind of messes me up.” Well, I hate to break this to those of you who may have said something like that, but that just proves how much you need to work with the metronome. The metronome doesn’t lie, so if you can’t play in time with it, you can’t play in time as well as you think – and that’s why we’re practicing the exercises presented here. Secondly, you should be counting and subdividing in your head while you play/clap/tap. Set good habits now – counting is essential to developing a strong sense of time. Finally, start slowly and gradually increase your tempo as you improve.

Ok, let’s go on to Round 2!

Rhythm Exercises #5: Practicing the Upbeats

This exercise is all about working through single eighth notes and eighth rests. In order to be able to play/clap these rhythms accurately you need to be subdividing and gaining familiarity with the feeling of upbeats. Work slowly, be precise, gradually increase your tempo.

Rhythm Exercises #6: Combining Rhythms

This exercise is more of a check-up to assess your ability to correctly play through all of the rhythmic figures we’ve discussed thus far. Basically, you should be familiar with the following: whole, half, dotted half, quarter, dotted quarter, and eighth notes (as well as rests). In addition, starting rhythms on the upbeats (what we call the “and” of a beat) requires you to be very comfortable counting and subdividing. This exercise is a bit longer in order to ensure you see a little bit of everything.

Rhythm Exercises #7: Sixteenth Notes

We’re introducing the next level of rhythmic subdivisions – 16th notes. Sixteenth notes divide a single beat into four equal pulses, so there are four 16th notes in a single beat. When we count or subdivide 16th notes we use a particular syllable – “one ee and ah” – to represent each 1/4 of the beat.

This new counting and subdivision should be practiced just as before. Start slowly and practice counting through the entire exercise at the 16th note subdivision level. Even though there are other rhythms in the exercise, try counting “one-ee-and-ah, two-ee-and-ah, three-ee-and-ah, four-ee-and-ah” throughout every measure.

Rhythm Exercises #8: Eighth Note Triplets

Eighth note triplets break a single beat into three equal pulses. The difficult part is not in playing or subdividing triplets. The difficult part is going back and forth between breaking a beat into 2 and then 3 equal parts. It is this duple and triple subdivisions that are the real challenge so like everything else – practice slowly, and be precise.

When we subdivide eighth note triplets, we count each triplet by saying “one trip – let”:

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JPC glossary / key

  • RH – right hand
  • LH – left hand
  • HT – hands together
  • CM – contrary motion (to move in opposite directions)
  • Harmonically – to play as chords (all notes together at once)
  • Melodically – to play as a melody (single note) – arpeggiate
  • R7, R3, R37 – chord shells (Root-7th, Root-3rd, Root-3rd-7th respectively)
  • bpm – beats per minute. Refers to the metronome setting