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Music Triplets

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In the previous lessons we learned about whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes and sixteenth notes. There are two half notes in a whole tone and two quarter notes in a half note.

So basically we worked in subdivision of two's.

Triplets can be a little confusing because you subdivide a half or a quarter note to three equal unites instead of two, but once you get the idea of it, they are not that hard to read and play.

Triola is an other name for a triplet in musical terms. We'll use both these terms in this page but the mean the same things.

If you know how to play in 3/4 time, you will have no problem in reading them. (Click here to go to the Dotted Half Note Lesson if you need a reminder.)

Let's begin with reading and playing two examples that demonstrate how they can be easily understood when you imagine them in three quarters:

The first example is a simple melody in a 3/4 time.

Expending a musical phrase with a triplet to three quarters.

Now, if I shrink this whole musical phrase into one bar of four quarters, the third bar appears as a Triplet...

Narrowing the previous musical phrase to one bar of four quarters with a triplet.

How come they sound they sound exactly the same?

Well, in the first example each bar is subdivided into three beats, while in the second example each quarter note is subdivided into three.

Still confused? Don't worry - by the end of the lesson you will understand everything.

Usually, quarters are subdivided into two eighths, and even if you are a beginner it's not difficult to play the following rhythm (if you're not sure about the eighths click here to go to the eighths notes lesson):

Counting two eighth notes in a quarter.

We can also divide the quarter into 3 equal eighths as well instead of 2 eighths:

counting a triplet over a quarter.

Compare between the two examples above, and you'll see that the you still count: One, Two, Three, Four in both examples only you divide the beats differently.

The difference between the two examples can be seen by the subdivision of the 1st and the 3rd beats.

Try to hear and play these two examples one after the other, and after you practice you will get the feel of the Triola.

We can also see the difference between two eighths and a triola, if we put the rhythmic patterns one above the other as can be seen in the following example:

Comparing two eighth notes to three eighth notes over one quarter.

(We'll try to play the rhythmical pattern later in our studies. For now let's stick to the basics first).

Other kinds of Triola's

Sometimes we may see other kinds of triplets:

A triplet of three equal quarter notes over a half note.

A triplet of quarter's means that you should playing three equal quarters instead of two quarters over a half note.


A triplet of three equal half notes over a whole note.

A triplet of half notes means that instead of playing 2 half notes you should be playing three over a whole note.

And what about this?

A triplet of three equal sixteenth notes over an eighth note.

You guessed right - instead of playing 2 sixteenth notes over one eighth note, there are now 3.

And so on...


Triplets can be marked as an arc-shaped line, a bracket, or just the number 3. All these marks mean the same.

Various notation of triplets


Now that we understand the theory let's practice these exercises by counting and clapping along, and you'll soon get the hang of it.

triplet exercises no. 1

triplet exercises no. 2

The third exercise is a beautiful example from the Serenade "Schwanengesang" by Franz Schubert. First, try to count and clap along, and then play the melody on your piano.

A triplet in Serenade Schwanengesand by Franz Schubert.

After you feel comfortable with this example, try and play the whole piece that I've arranged for both hands.

Name PDF Mp3
Serenade "Schwanengesang" by Franz Schubert Download Play

Return from Music Triplets to the Piano Notes Page

Piano Notes Lessons

1. Intro 14. Dynamic Signs
2. Piano Keyboard Layout 15. Gradual and Sudden Dynamic Changes
3. Playing Melodies by Ear 16. Eighth Notes
4. Rhythm 17. The Sharp Sign
5.The Treble Staff 18. The Flat Sign
6. Draw a Treble Clef 19. The Natural Sign
7. The Bass Clef 20. Accent Marks
8.The Grand Staff 21. Music Terms for Beginners
9. Harmonic Intervals 22. Sixteenth Notes
10. The Dotted Half Note 23. Tempo Marks
11.The Quarter Rest 24. The Dotted Notes
12. The Half Rest 25. Triplets
13. The Whole Rest 26. Double Accidentals
27. A Review of Musical Terms

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