Tempo vs. Type of Note


Well-known member
I'm a beginner and when I'm listening to music and trying to work out drum time signatures, I realize that at some point, a quarter note beat sped up fast enough is an eighth note beat, etc. Is there any hard and fast rule about when you are listening (as opposed to reading) about how you determine this? I find there are times I can both count a rhythm in fast tempo quarter notes or slow tempo eighth notes.


Platinum Member
All of the rhythm values are relative-- half as fast or twice as fast as their neighbors. But if you listen for the beat you would dance to, or tap your foot to, that's usually quarter notes. So the faster rhythm you could play with one hand might be 8th notes, and a still faster two-handed rhythm could be 16ths.

Not 100% of the time, but that's very common-- the foot-tapping beat is usually quarter notes.


Well-known member
when I was younger, my dad taught me that "the basic drum beat was 1 and 3 on the bass; 2 and 4 on the snare, and those are quarter notes and the right hand is playing 8th notes on the hi hat"...that has always been my "neutral" foundational reference point for figuring note values out. This allowed me to visualize what it would look like written out, and I would just adjust it for tempo.

40 years later, I still do the same thing initially when learning, even though I know much, much more about rhythmic theory now....funny how the simplest description usually sticks the best

I think if you find a good a good reference, you can then figure a lot of stuff out. A lot of the above advice is great to help with that search

No Way Jose

Silver Member
It is often possible to write notes in music notation a number of ways. As you said, quarter notes at fast tempo can sound like eighth notes at slow tempo.