How to Read Triplets: more on rhythm


Hi folks!

Today’s episode talks about the rhythmic anomaly called a “triplet” – basically, three notes that must occur in the space of two notes. Learning how to read triplets will diversify your rhythmic palette, and who doesn’t want that?

How to read triplets – basics

how to read triplets

So here’s what a regular quarter note triplet might look like in music. It’s got a bracket and a 3. Now usually when you have three quarter notes, you have three beats. 1, 2, 3. But triplets defy all logic – these three quarter notes now need to fit inside two beats. They need to spaced just as evenly as regular quarter notes, only their time to pass is much shorter.

Here’s how the beats would look like when they align with triplet quarter notes:

Triplets on the piano

Be very careful that the three notes of your triplet are all evenly spaced, and that you’re not holding any one note longer than the other. If these were triplet babies, you wouldn’t want to hold one longer than the others, right? Right? So keep it fair.

Eighth note triplet

Another type of triplet that you’re likely to encounter at some point is the eighth note triplet. So usually three eighth notes get one and a half beats, right? When we transform them into triplets, it’s the same process – three eighth notes now have to fit inside of ONE beat. I actually find this one quite a bit easier to understand and play.

Eighth note triplets in popular music

For a famous example, the theme of Star Wars begins with an eighth note triplet, and has many more scattered throughout.


And that’s all there is to it! Triplets are fun because they shift the meter and add exciting rhythmic interest. Hopefully this tutorial on how to read triplets was useful to you – and have fun on your rhythmic adventures!


Allysia has been teaching piano in Canada for nearly a decade, and has her Grade 10 RCM certificate. She especially enjoys nerding out to music history and theory. When she’s not making videos or teaching, she’s reading, writing, and jamming in a rock band.