History: I am learning electronic keyboard(kinda piano) from past 5-6 years and now I am learning on my own.

I have tried playing triplets(crotchet) on 4/4 but am unsure how to practice them or how to get them correct.I know they are split like 3 beats in place of a crotchet thus making 3x4=12 beats in a measure, whereas the backing beats(accompaniment) plays a 4/4 in a 4x4=16 fashion.Also I have tried playing first with metronome; then only with the backing beat but I kinda mix the triplets slowly into 1-e&-aor1e-&-aor 1-e-&a because I get some kind of intuition to fix the triplets to start on an emphasis(beat).Any help?

4 Answers 4


The triplets do start on a beat. All of them. And you are right that there are 12 of them in a measure of 4/4. However, make sure your math is correct. A triplet is:

ONE - 2 - 3 - TWO - 2 - 3 - THREE - 2 - 3 - FOUR - 2 - 3.

Each of the capital letters represents a beat of four. I suggest you do not try counting with "1-e-+-a". Instead, simply count "one-two-three". I usually would count the beat with an emphasis as above. "ONE-two-three-TWO-two-three" etc.

If this is difficult for you, you should be able to find a metronome that can help you get a firmer grasp of the grid. Or, you can set a metronome to a FAST pace, accent every 3 beats. Then consider every three clicks to be one beat.

If this is still difficult, you're probably just not hearing enough use of the triplet in music you know. Try listening to music with lots of triplets. Classical music has plenty of examples. In modern music, the eighth-note triplet is probably used most often in a blues context.

Keep practicing. What was frustrating and disappointing one day is amazingly easy the next, and I think learning beat divisions are a perfect example. Once you've learned it, you won't forget it.

One more thing: check to see if the technique you are using fits your goals. It's perfectly natural that you should use three fingers to play a triplet. Try with one hand, and then both hands playing the same triplet in unison. In addition, chord arpeggios going up and down can be a great way to learn the triplet because they tend to fall into a pattern of 6, which can be thought of as two triplets: Piano triplet chords


A set of triplets is three notes, equally spaced in this case, over one beat. Thus, 12 in a bar full of triplets.(4/4, with quaver triplets). Try counting 1,2,3,4 with 'triplet' counted evenly in between. As ONE-trip-let,TWO-trip-let,THREE-trip-let, FOUR-trip-let.The count will coincide with the main beats of the bar, but the 'trip-let' will not match to quavers or semis in each beat. If you're talking crotchet triplets, there will be 6 of these in a 4/4 bar, the first and 4th coinciding with beats one and three respectively. They are slower than quavers, quicker than crotchets.

Crotchet=1 beat=quarter note. Quaver=1/2 beat=eighth note. Semi=1/4 beat=sixteenth.

If your metronome is clever enough, and you play slowly, which gives more thinking time, set it, for example, at 180 bpm, for a song at 60 bpm. The clicks will be spot on triplets for each beat. Then you can keep to them.If it has a ping as well, set it for 3 time for even more support !


It may help to start by thinking in 12/8, then make the switch to 4/4 with triplets.

Set a metronome to a quite fast tempo, and count a 12 beat bar in threes: 123123123123

Once you feel it, you feel it. Try playing piano in that rhythm.

Then make the switch to thinking in 4/4, with each beat being 3 metronome ticks. One-and-a two-and-a three-and-a four-and-a. Play the same piano patterns over this.

Slow the metronome down to a third of the tempo, but keep counting at the same tempo: now you are feeling the triplets.

Some metronomes and most drum machines have 12/8 patterns that will help with this.

It should be noted that 4/4 does not mean 4 * 4 = 16 ticks to a bar. It means 4 beats, each one a quarter-note long. So do not think that whenever you see 4/4 it would be appropriate to set a metronome to tick 16 times a bar.

To play a triplet pattern over a 16th-note beat is quite advanced musicianship. It doesn't happen often in Western classical music, or rock and pop. It happens sometimes in jazz, African music, and dance music inspired by these. Don't worry about it yet.

To play a triplet pattern while simultaneously playing a 16th-note pattern (perhaps with the other hand) is even more advanced. I'm certain there are lots of professional musicians who can't do it.


Just to clarify your problem: you are struggling to do 16ths of a bar on the left hand whilst doing 12ths on the right hand?

Let's break this down to one beat: four notes on the left hand, three on the right. This naturally means we should split our beat into 12 sections:

RH: o---o---o---
LH: o--o--o--o--

Start off by setting your metronome to just tick (i.e. no tocks every 4th beat) and playing the above on just one note in each hand (like C3 and C5).

If you prefer vocal counting then this would be, with emphasis on where the triplets hit:

ONE -and -a -two -AND -a -three-and -A -four -and -a -

Once you have perfected that move on to doing a major chord in each (in the right hand C3 E3 G3 C3 E3 G3 and C5 E5 G5 C6 C5 E5 G5 C6 in the left.

From here you should be able to do more complicated things as per the piece of music. Best of luck!

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