Question about notes/drums/music

Sticks Of Fury

Senior Member
Hello Dudes!
I have another question for you guys. When you are keeping time on the cymbals(high hat, ride, etc.) you play quarter notes or 8th notes or 16th notes etc. I look at it like this: quarter notes are slow, 8th notes are faster, twice as fast as quarters and 16th notes are even faster, double the speed of 8th notes. But I came across a video on youtube of a guy demonstrating 16th notes fills on the drums. He wasn't playing fast. I always assumed that if you played 16th notes on the drums that they would be of a fast nature, because 16th notes on the high hat are fast. But my friend who plays bass said that playing 16th notes doesn't mean that you are playing fast. He said that fast or slow on the drums would just be considered the "tempo". I am slightly confused. Could one of you guys tell me what the real deal is? I hope that this question wasn't too stupid. Thanks and take care!


Senior Member
If you slow down a sticking pattern a few notches on the metronome, does it require different notation? Of course not. 16th notes are simply a metric division of a single quarter note.


Senior Member
Everything is relative.

The duration of a 16th note is half that of an 8th note which in turn is half a quarter note.

In other words, a note value doesn't say anything about speed it just says something about the duration of note when compared to other notes. So yeah 16th notes can be very slow if the pulse of the song is very slow.


"Uncle Larry"
If the tempo is 60 BPM, then you would have 4 - 16th notes per second. Not terribly fast. If your song was 120 BPM then you would have 8 - 16th notes per second, twice as fast. So it's all dependent on the tempo of the song.


Platinum Member
In short, note values and tempo are two different things. Keep looking at more vids online... You're on somewhat the right track, you understand how an 8th note is "faster" than a quarter note, what I think you're missing is that the tempo decides how fast the quarter note is expressed, and each sub-division after that is relative to the established quarter note.

16th notes at 120 BPM is twice as fast as 16th notes at 60 BPM, but in each case, it's still 4 notes per quarter note.

Have you learned how to count the sub-divisions yet? Most people use a clever system where the quarter note is always counted, and the sub-divisions get consistent letters or sounds... For example.

1/4 note: 1 2 3 4
1/8 notes: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
16ths: 1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a

See how even though the quarter note is still there, we have additional counts for each sub-divided note?

So to get your head in the correct space, right now, count 1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a.
Count those markers out loud, first very slowly, then quickly. You've just expressed 16ths at two different tempos. Do it on your drum set. Start to realize that every note we play on any part of the kit has a note value in the beat. And it's not just for the drums. All musicians should understand how we measure and count time, and all musicians should understand sub-dividing a beat.