The triplet explained in simple terms

Have you ever seen a 3 on a sheet of music? That's the sign for triplets, a special rhythmic unit in music. Read on to learn all about it.
Table of contents

What is a triplet?

A triplet in music is a rhythmic unit used to insert three notes into a period normally occupied by two notes. The main feature of the triplet is that it changes the note value and divides a rhythmic unit into three instead of two.

For example, if we are working in 4/4 time, two half notes would normally fit. But if I make a triplet out of two half notes, there are three notes instead of two, but in the same time unit.

A triplet of 3 half notes corresponds to 2 normal half notes or one whole note.
A triplet of 3 half notes is the equivalent of 2 normal half notes or the equivalent of a whole note.

The same is true for all other musical notes: a triplet of three quarter notes equals two normal quarter notes; a triplet of three eighth notes equals two normal eighth notes, etc.

A half note is as long as two quarter notes or a quarter triplet
A half note is as long as two quarter notes or a quarter triplet
A quarter note is as long as two eighth notes or an eighth note triplet
A quarter note is as long as two eighth notes or an eighth note triplet

A triplet is usually indicated by a bracket or slur above or below the notes numbered "3". This indicates that these notes should be in the space normally occupied by two equal notes.

Sound of a triplet

The following example shows the difference between a hi-hat pattern consisting of normal eighth notes and one consisting of eighth note triplets:

Hi-Hat Pattern consisting of normal eighth notes
Hi-Hat Pattern consisting of eighth note triplets

It should be noted that triplets can significantly alter the rhythm and timing of a piece of music and require precise execution to achieve the desired effect. The exact way a triplet is played may vary depending on the type of music and style in which it is used. For example, a triplet is often played differently in classical music than in jazz or popular music.

In general, triplets are a very good way to break up the rigid structure of a measure and give it greater rhythmic flexibility. They can create a flowing, smooth character, or add emphasis or accent to certain notes in a piece of music.

Keep reading:

Share this article

We independently research, test, review and recommend the best products. If you buy something through our links, we may receive a commission.

More articles
For artists
The most popular synthesizer brands by country
We have analysed the Google search queries of the 6 most popular synthesizer brands in 118 countries and evaluated the results. The results are very interesting and show, above all, ...
Read More →
The best reverb pedals
The best reverb pedals for guitarists and producers
A reverb pedal can add incredible depth to the guitar and enrich the sound enormously. Regardless of whether your amplifier already has a built-in reverb or not ...
Read More →
The best chorus pedals
The 8 best chorus pedals for guitarists and producers
Chorus pedals were particularly popular in the 80s and legends like Kurt Kobain or John Frusciante made them even more popular in the 90s. Today ...
Read More →
The best distortion pedals
The best distortion/overdrive pedals for electric guitar
Today, distortion pedals are more popular than ever - in the digital age, where many guitarists play without amplifiers or with transistor amplifiers, distortion pedals are used very frequently, ...
Read More →
The best laptops for music production
The 12 best laptops for music production
For a long time, it was thought that you absolutely had to have an Apple laptop to produce music on the go - this is no longer the case. Even if ...
Read More →
The best delay pedals
The best delay pedals in 2024
Delay pedals are among the favourite pedals of guitarists - a delay effect creates depth and an atmospheric sound that cannot be achieved by other means. ...
Read More →