What is a Triplet?
A triplet in drumming terms is a group of 3 notes played in a different duration then the regular beat. Every drummer should become very familiar with triplets and all the different varieties out there. This is almost as important as rudiment study. In music, there are groups of notes called Tuplets, which are groups of notes played at different tempos then the rest of the notes. The triplet is the most common form of these. This may sound a little confusing, but let me try and explain what a triplet is in this article.
In music you can play quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, etc… With these, you can also play triplets. So this means you can play quarter note triplets, eighth note triplets, sixteenth note triplets, etc…The word triplet literally means three, so you would assume you are playing groups of three notes. A regular quarter note triple is two thirds the duration of a regular quarter note. To understand these we must look at fractions, if a triplet is usually 2/3 the time of regular notes, then we would need to play more triplets to equal certain note values. For example, three eighth note triplets are the same as one quarter note. This may sound very confusing, so let me gave you some diagram examples for some extra help.
Before I give you some examples, let me explain how triplets look in music. They are super easy to spot. There will be a group of notes (a group of three) with a number 3 over top. You may see a set of 2 triplets in a row that are all connected however there will be a “3” over top. This means you are supposed to play triplets. If you are unaware of music theory and sheet music, check out this drum notation article to get fully acquainted with things! Reading the note value for triplets is the same as regular notes. The note value changes depending on the number of tails, so if you have 1 tail, you are playing eight note triplets.
This is very hard to explain with text, so here are some examples. Here is an example of straight quarter notes. Below that is a set of quarter note triplets. Notice how there is 6 notes in the triplets compared to the 4 notes in the straight quarter notes. This is the 2/3 ratio I was talking about before.
Try not to think too hard about this. Triplets are actually fairly simple and can be felt a lot easier then read. So try to feel the triplet groove. Here is a set of eight note triplets with bass drum quarter notes on the 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Here is a 16th note triplet groove; again with the bass drum on the 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Triplets are easy to spot on any piece of music. Playing them is fairly simple; in fact you have probably already experimented with triplets before if you have been playing for a while. This article is more focused on explaining triplets. For applications with triplets, check out triplet fills. This will show you how to incorporate triplets into all styles of music!
By: Dave Atkinson
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