Eighth Note Triplets

Triplets are a new form of Note Values and can be a tricky thing to get your head round. An eighth note triplet involves cramming an extra eighth note into the beat, giving you three even notes rather than the two you would normally expect. You can get triplets of any note value, and the definition is 'three notes where you would expect to see two'.

Triplets are identified by a '3' above the group of notes. Sometimes a square bracket is put over the notes as well. Written below is a bar of eighth note triplets:

A Bar Of Triplets Without Brackets

Eighth Note Triplets Without Brackets.

Notice that for each crotchet grouping, there are now three notes joined together with one beam?

There are a few methods of counting triplets. Some people prefer to count the bar above as '1 tri plet 2 tri plet 3 tri plet 4 tri plet'. Personally, I prefer to stick to the 'e's' and '+'s' method, which in this case would give you '1 + a 2 + a 3 + a 4 + a'. Which you use is entirely down to which feels best to you, but I will be using the second method in these lessons.

For the time being you should play the triplet as a Single Stroke Roll, meaning that the sticking will be 'R L' all the way through. I have re written the example above with counting and sticking, this is shown below:

A Bar Of Triplets Without Counting And Sticking

Eighth Note Triplets with counting and sticking.

Notice with the sticking that you don't always play the numbered counts with a right hand, it's right for the odd beats and left for the even beats. There are several other stickings for the triplet that will be covered in later lessons.

The best way to get your head around how eighth note triplets sound is to hear it. There is a great lesson here where you can hear them. Yes it's a piano lesson, but the theory and the sound of the notes is still the same.


  • Play eighth notes continuously for 1 minute at a tempo of 120bpm.

An Exercise

When you are comfortable playing the triplets individually try playing a bar of straight eighth notes followed by a bar of eighth note triplets then repeat. The change in timing can be very hard to get but it is a great exercise to be able to do. Use single strokes all the way through.

Switching from straight eighth notes to triplets.

Check out our lesson on the Single Stroke Triplet.


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