How to Count and Play Musical Triplets

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Counting Musical Triplets, With Audio

Musical triplets with brackets
Image © Brandy Kraemer, 2016

Counting Triplets in Piano Music

A triplet is a group of three notes played inside the length of two of its note-type. For example, in the time it takes to play two-eighth notes of normal length (or "straight eighths"), three eighth-note triplets are heard:

In other words, three notes fit into the space of two-eighth notes. Because triplets divide into threes, they can create a rhythm otherwise impossible or too convoluted to notate in many meters. Triplets written with other lengths include:

Sixteenth-Note Triplet: Equals two sixteenth-notes (or one eighth-note**).

Quarter-Note Triplet: Equals two quarter-notes (one half-note).

Half-Note Triplet: Equals one whole-note.

**It’s easier to count triplets using a singular note-length.
 


 

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Counting Complex Musical Triplets

Musical triplets with rests and irrational rhythm
Image © Brandy Kraemer, 2016

Playing More Complex Musical Triplets

A triplet splits a portion of time into three equal parts. However, these parts can be modified using different note-lengths, music rests, or rhythmic dots, as long as the total length of the note-grouping remains intact. Look at the images:

  • Blues Shuffle (#1):
    Only two notes in the triplet are heard; the first note being twice as long as the second. This may be notated using two notes of different lengths, or by tying together the first two notes.
  • Swing Triplets (#2):
    The middle eighth-note is replaced with a rest (one of the many variations of swing rhythm).

How to Read Sheet Music

  • See the notes on the treble and bass staves, as well as their ledger lines, and learn mnemonic devices to help you remember them.
  • Key signatures take some time to memorize. Whether you want to identify one or learn how to write one on the staff, this interactive and quick key signature finder will help.

More on Reading Music

Tempo Commands Organized By Speed
How to Read Piano Fingering
 Chord Types & Their Symbols