How To Play Triplets Against Eighth Notes

India Eighth notes and rest
India Eighth notes and rest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beginner's Corner

Each quarter note can be divided into two equal eighth notes or four equal sixteenth notes.

Sometimes composers want to put three equal notes into a quarter note. This is called a triplet. Triplets are three equal notes that fit into the amount of time usually takne up by one quarter note or two eighth notes.

Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata has many triplets in one measure of music.

Try this clapping exercise:
1. Turn on the metronome to a slow beat, quarter note = 60.
2. Clap just the beat.
3. Listen and feel the beat in your head.
4. Then clap 3 times for each tick of the metronome.
5. Triplets all need to be the same length. Say a 3-syllable word like straw-ber-ry or can-ta-loupe as you clap. Each part of the word is part of the triplet.
 Intermediate Corner

How To Play Triplets Against Eighth Notes

Have you seen music where one hand has triplets while the other plays eighth notes? This can be a bit tricky at first. It is a bit like patting your head and rubbing your tummy. You are doing two different things at once.

The trick to playing two notes in one hand against three notes in the other is that none of the notes within the beat will line up together; except for the first note.

In one hand you'll have to fit two equal notes into each beat, while the other will have to fit three equal notes in the same amount of time. It may sound like the two hands are not exactly in-synch or together.

Follow These Steps

1. First clap triplets and eighths. Work until you can change easily from one to the other. Use a metronome to check that you have a steady beat. Feel how the groups of two and three fit into the beat.

2. Play a scale with a metronome. Play eighth notes going up (1 eighth to a note of the scale) and triplets coming down. Then switch and play triplets going up and eighths coming down.

3. Play each hand's part separately. Switch back and forth between the two like you did with the clapping.

4. Divide the beat into six equal parts. The eighth notes will fall on the first and third beats of the six. The triplets will be played on the first, third, and fifth note in the group of six. As a result the second eighth note comes right after the second triplet. At first, you might have to count to six each time you play both hands, placing each eighth note and each triplet in the correct spot. This will get easier with time and practice, and soon you will start hearing where each note falls within the beat, without having to work so hard.
Advanced Corner

I'll be posting part two real soon on more rhythm stuff. I hope you'll check out part one, Where's The Beat?

So, for sure you'll want to keep up with your Hanon Exercises

Here's more valuable resources to research:

Hanon - Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises - Complete: Schirmer's Library of Musical Classics

 Blues Hanon

 Jazz Hanon

 Junior Hanon

Buy at
Buy From

All the best,


"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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