on jazz drumming

How To Subdivide The Beat


sub-dividing the beat - on jazz drumming Once you understand which note on the stave stands for which part of the drum you, you then have to understand the rhythmic values of each note - note values, that is how to sub-divide the beat. In this post I will briefly explain and show you the sub-divisions of the beat.


The first note to understand is the whole note (semibreve for us Brits). In 4/4 this last for a whole bar, and so we count the four beats for each note.


wholenote - on jazz drumming


Next, the half-note (minim), which is half a whole note. So two half notes equal one whole note and we count each note as two beats.


half note


Now we get to the all in the all important quarter-note (crochet). In fact this is what we’ve already been counting, 1 2 3 4. This is our pulse beat, and it is this note that we are primarily going to sub-divide.


quarter note

Halving the value again we get the eighth-note (semi-quaver). These can be counted as I and 2 and 3 and 4 and.


eight note


Things now get interesting. The next sub-division doesn’t divide the note in halve again, but into three! This is the triplet and it is hugely important for jazz drumming and understanding swing. Count it as 1-trip-let 2-tripl-let 3-trip-let 4-trip-let and make sure the spacing is even.




Going back to eight-notes and halving them we get, yes you’ve guessed it, the sixteenth note (semiquaver). Count these as 1-e-and-a 2-e-and-a 3-e-and-a 4-e-and-a.


sixteenth note


Dividing triplets in half we get the sixteenth note triplet.


sixteenth note triplet


And finally dividing sixteenth notes in half again, we arrive at the thirty-second note (demi-semiquaver).


thirysecond note


There are a few more, I have skipped quintuplets and septuplets for example, but these are the most important and the ones that you will come across most often in drum notation, and on this site.

Go back