27. Grooving Sixteenths


THE “5   9 13 17” EXERCISE


This is for anyone who can always use a little help getting into the groove picking or strumming sixteenth (or fast eighth) notes. Developing fluency and speed with mixed measures that include sixteenths can be challenging. This exercise is very useful if done patiently.

Below is a measure of sixteenth notes in 4/4 time. Be sure to count them as sixteenths and not as eighths, as this is an easy mistake to make. In fact, counting sixteenths with the voice is somewhat of a tongue-twister at first—they can seem very fast even at slower tempos. Count them like this:





While we could count them as 2 measures of eighth notes, learning to count 16ths is very helpful.


When you can count them flawlessly with your voice, try playing them at a very slow tempo, perhaps=60., with muted strings:

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Strive for an even attack with no accenting. Hold the pick as lightly as possible without dropping it and use a fluid, sweeping motion, but not too big an arc! Restrain your right hand movement as much as you can while remaining relaxed.

Slowly increase tempo, and if your rhythm “falls apart”, try playing only the first 5 sixteenths of the measure. Say, while playing, “one-e and-a two”, and stop. Make sure your tempo is strict, and then expand it to 9, then 13, then 16. It is relatively easy to play partial measures like this. Eventually you will be able to gain speed and accuracy. Then you will be ready to incorporate them into your playing.

© 2012  Jim Greenfield