photo of triplet in piece

These two measures are identical except for the triplet 8th notes in the right hand of the first measure.

This piece is in cut time, so how can both these measures add to 2 beats when one of them has triplet and the other doesn't?

Would I play these measures the same way?


The short answer is yes. Triplet marking is often optional. The composer is basically saying these are triplets, and play all the others the same.

The basic rule is if you see three 8th notes that are taking up a single quarter note's place, then you play them as triplets whether they are marked as such or not. Another clue is that 8th notes beamed in groups of three are generally triplets. (An exception would be three 8th notes followed by an 8th rest, for example. Then you would analyze it in terms of how many 8th notes there are for a given quarter note.)

  • 2
    From experience I can tell you. A lot of composers didn't even bother writing the three, plus bracket when needed. Some did the first example of the serie and the following triplets you had to understand by yourself (like in your case). I was in your shoes a lot of time, so to speak, by ruminating I came to the conclusion like BobRodes wrote.
    – Nachmen
    Jan 25 '16 at 4:45

These note values only make sense if both of them are triplets. Sometimes depending on the means of notation marking a measure as triplets can be a tiresome task. This may necessitate that triplet markings are not used every time.

The grouping of the triplets also gives you the indication of the triplets. They say to you here you have three notes in the time of one beat. So three quavers in the time of a crotchet beat so 3 in the time of two.


The notation as printed is technically incorrect. But there is such a strong implication that the 3-note groups in bar 2 are also triplets that the composer (or engraver) felt justified in omitting the triplet number.

It wouldn't have been any trouble to print the number. It wouldn't have taken up any space that could have been used for anything else. You won't be the only inexperienced student to question it. So was omitting the number a good decision?

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