Triplets are by far my favourite rhythm to play. They are probably one of the most important rhythms to learn and should be treated as a Root Rhythm. You can add these bad boys to any song and enhance grooves and fills with them. Some drummers see them as a rudiment, which is fine, but I personally treat them as an essential. If you’re not playing Triplets, then you’re missing a whole chunk of rhythm in your playing.
Triplets give a side to side feel when played as a single stroke roll. They are the root behind the shuffle beat and a traditional swing pattern played on your ride cymbal. They can be played anywhere on the kit so don’t feel restricted to playing them precisely the way you find them played by other drummers. Use the whole kit and see what you like to hear rather than being restricted to what others do with them.
A triplet can be used in conjunction with rudiments such as a double stroke roll, paradiddle and flams to name a few. Before we get too ahead of ourselves, lets take a look at them in their basic form.
First up is the Triplet Eighth. They are called Triplet Eighth’s because they are written the same as Eighth’s (or Quavers) but there are three of them to a Quarter (or Crotchet). Let’s take a look at the count for both of these. (There are a number of ways to count these, so this is only my preferred way of counting them).
First up is counting Eighth Notes (Quavers) in a bar of 4/4;
[1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and]
Next is Triplet Eighth Notes (Triplet Quavers) in a bar of 4/4;
[1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4 and a]
You can see that the difference between Eighth’s and Triplet Eighth’s is just one note per quarter. The time frame or distance between the numbers (or Quarters) doesn’t change, so you can see that with the triplet there is one extra note to fit into that same time frame.
Let’s have a look at what these Eighth’s and Triplet Eighth’s look like in notational form;
Eighth Notes (Quavers)
Triplet Eighth Notes (Triplet Quavers)
Ok, let’s break these pictures down a bit. We have vertical lines at the start and at the end and they are bar lines. What is between them is a bar or a measure of music. The time signature is the numbers at the start 4/4 and means there are 4 beats in every bar, or four Quarters. The + sign = “and” so the count for Eighths is 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and. This lets us name each note specifically as each ”and” in Eighths has a corresponding number i.e. the “and” belonging to 2 or the “and” belonging to 1. Likewise, the Triplets have an “and” but also an “a” that belongs to a beat or Quarter note number.
With the Triplets you can see that there are 4 groups of three notes and as they are an odd number of notes they have a three above each group. This rule applies to any odd number of notes that doesn’t add up to the time signature.
Under the count for the Triplets is an R and an L meaning right and left hands. This indicates that the Quarter is changing from your right hand to your left each time. It is helpful to accent (play louder) each of these notes so that they stand out above others. This will help you stay on track but it also helps to count with it initially. Once you feel comfortable with that, the next stage is to get it playing with a metronome.
In the picture above you can see the layout of Triplet Eights against Eight notes. The distance between the Quarter note 1, 2, 3 and 4 doesn’t change and this is where your timing is essential.
Now all that’s left to do is get it on the kit and have some fun!