Continuing on your mathematical journey of subdividing the beat, the sixteenth note is exactly one-half the duration of the eighth note. You can fit sixteen sixteenth notes in a four beat measure of common time. There are four sixteenth notes in one beat.
Sixteenth notes look just like eighth notes, but instead of having one flag flying from the top of the note stem, there are two. Moreover, just as the flags are straightened and connected on multiple eighth notes, both flags are beamed together on multiple sixteenth notes. The result is that sixteenth notes in series resemble quarter notes with two beams across the top of the note stems.
FIGURE 11-3: Sixteenth notes
To count sixteenth notes you need to have four syllables between each numbered beat. Typically you count using “one-e-and-a two-e-and-a three-e-and-a four-e-and-a” as a way to keep the sixteenth notes even and steady between the beats. Listen to the track below on the accompanying CD and follow along with the music. When you are ready, try playing along on middle C or clapping the rhythm with your hands as you count.
FIGURE 11-4: Counting sixteenth notes
Be careful not to change the tempo when subdividing the beat! The speed of the beats should not increase or decrease just because you are playing more notes per beat. The goal is to keep the numbered beats perfectly steady while playing the eighth and sixteenth notes evenly spaced between them.