'3 3 3 3 4' Syncopated 16th Note Grouping

In this short lesson you will be learning a very important and common one bar syncopated 16th note grouping. This rhythm is often referred to as a '33334' rhythm, with those numbers representing the groupings the 16th notes fall into.

Let's start by learning the rhythm in an accented single stroke roll as it is an easy way to see how the groupings fall. This is shown below in two forms. First of all a straight set of 16th notes but beamed in the grouping for this rhythm.

The 33334 rhythm applied to a straight 16th note roll

So you have four sets of three 16th notes followed by a set of four. At the moment this won't sound like anything but a bunch of 16th notes so let's marke the groupings clearer by adding some accents. The part has been rewritten below with accents placed on every third 16th note untill the end of the bar where one group of four is used to complete the 'cycle'. I have added phrase markings and counting also to further clarify the rhythm.

The 33334 rhythm applied to a straight 16th note roll

This is a little harder to follow than the 'beamed' version so use the counting if it helps. Remember, if the stroke falls on a number or '+' it will be played with a right and if it's an 'e' or an 'a' it will be the left. One of the cool things about this rhythm is that when played in singles the accented notes will switch between the hands. This is quite handy in fill construction as it allows for some interesting orchestration.

That is the basic rhythm, I'll quickly discuss two common variations below.

Rhythmic Variation

A very common variation on this pattern is to split the group of four at the end of the bar into two groups of two. Played as singles that would look like this:

The 33334 rhythm with an alternate end

This just gives you an alternate ending allowing for more accents and more potential orchestrations. It's a very sublte difference but can have a big impact.

Sticking Variation

A Standard Triplet sticking can fit with this pattern very nicely. For all groups of three use this sticking with the group of four played back as singles. This is shown below.

The 33334 rhythm with an alternate end

I quite like this sticking as it falls inline with the 'start each phrase on a right' sticking idea.


  1. Using the 2 minute rule, get all examples up to a tempo of at least 130bpm. Don't be afraid to start slow.
  2. Add feet under each exercise in the same way you would add them to rudiments. This will further emphasize the syncopation of the hands.
  3. Try orchestrating each version of the rhythm and start thinking about how it can be used in fill construction.
  4. Try reversing the sticking in both sticking ideas.


Buy Me A Coffee

I hope you are enjoying this free content. If you feel like buying me a coffee to say thank you you can do so here.

Buy Me A Coffee