Simple Rhythm Exercise

One of the most challenging skills for adults learning to play a musical instrument for the first time is keeping a steady beat. I suggest that you record yourself playing your piece (using memo messages on an iPhone, or another recording app or device). If you are playing the correct notes but your piece doesn’t sound right, your rhythm is probably the culprit. I’d like to help you work on your rhythm issues.

Though most students know intellectually that two eighth notes are equal in value to one quarter note, they tend to think of eighth notes as” fast notes,” and often rush them. This is a very simple exercise to help you play eighth notes at exactly twice the speed of quarter notes. I am playing 2 measures of quarter notes, followed by 2 measures of eighth notes, then I repeat. If you have a mobile phone, a tablet or laptop, bring it to the piano and play this exercise from this email. Plug in some headphones and try your best to stay with me. Keep practicing until your rhythm is aligned with mine.

I am playing the D above middle C. You can play D with me, or choose another key such as A, F#, G or B.

Once you can keep your beat aligned with mine, go through the music you are playing now, identifying the quarter notes and eighth notes, making sure that your eighths are exactly twice as fast as your quarter notes. Record yourself, then see if you can tap a steady beat as you listen to your recording. If the beat is not steady, keep practicing small sections of your piece which contain quarter notes and eighth notes, and keep practicing my exercise.

This might seem elementary, but in my 35 years of teaching, I would say that keeping a steady beat between eighths and quarters is the most difficult thing for students to learn– both young and old alike.

Do you think this might be an issue for you? Let us know how you do when playing this exercise along with me. I can provide additional rhythm exercises if I see that there is interest.

Hope you have a lovely weekend! With love and music, Gaili

P.S. If you are new to this blog, welcome! I am a veteran piano teacher of almost 35 years! I post free sheet music every month, arranged for beginning to intermediate piano students, plus posts like this one to educate and motivate. Check my previous posts for free sheet music offerings on the right sidebar ➡️➡️➡️

I have written piano instruction books for older adults (, younger adults and teens (, Songs of the Seasons piano sheet music books for seasonal classical and popular favorites, and my latest piano/guitar/vocals books called The Music Remedy – sheet music collections to restore and revitalize the spirit. They might make great Fathers’ Day gifts for the piano playing dads in your life. Check out my books on the websites above, or click below to view them on

2 Replies to “Simple Rhythm Exercise”

  1. Gaili, this is an essential exercise — and I can see that self-recording is a very important part of it!! I’m adding in the self-recording with my students, thank you so much!

    1. Thanks Judi, students on other platforms have asked me, why not just use a metronome? But as you probably know, many students can’t hear when they have veered off the metronome click. A recorded track is easier to hear. I’m glad you found this helpful. I will post another rhythm exercise this weekend. Thanks so much for your comment!

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