# Can a tuplet apply to a fraction of a beat?

Instead of dividing a beat, or an entire sequence of beats, could it be that it alters the duration of (say) one and a half beats?

• Do you mean duplets or triplets? Duplets is two in the time of three and can easily consist of a beat and a half Triplets on the other hand are three notes in the time of two and would be more inclined to be full beats or halves of a beat Mar 18, 2016 at 10:24
• The question is general, for a tuplet of any size. Mar 22, 2016 at 5:26

Yes, absolutely. For a typical "three in the time of two" tuplet (a triplet), just select the note length that will give you half of the length you desire. So for 4/4, one beat is a quarter and 1.5 is a dotted quarter; half of that is a dotted eighth.

Here's an example I made in Finale to represent that:

You can see that the dotted-eighth tuplet takes up the same time as the dotted quarter — 1.5 beats.

As rightly noted below, that contrived example could be expressed without triplets and only serves to confuse the notation. However, there are cases where it is more useful — when the fractions don't work out so neatly. For example, 5 in the time of 3:

(Note that the notation could probably be clearer so that you don't have to look at the remainder of the bar to figure out how much time that tuplet takes up.)

• Since those dotted quavers in the triplet take up the same time as a quaver outside it, this is basically completely pointless and liable to get your name cursed wherever your music is played. Mar 17, 2016 at 8:20
• @MatthewWalton That's very true, haha. I probably could have used a better example. Updated.
– user28
Mar 17, 2016 at 19:55

In "traditional" notation, tuplets only occupy a complete number of beats, or a simple fraction (e.g. 1/2, 1/4) of a beat.

In "contemporary classical" music, you can write whatever you want to define the rhythm - but as another answer says, your example is pointless since the notes in the tuplet are the same length as ordinary 8th-notes.

It may be clearer to label the tuplet as a ratio like "7:5" or even as "7 eighths : 5 quarters" (using symbols rather than the words "eighths" and "quarters" - most notation software has an option to do that)

You can also nest tuplets inside each other, so for example a "7:5" tuplet might actually consist of 2 of the 7 notes, then a nested "3:4" tuplet and finally the last note of the 7 - but whether the performer is expected to play such rhythms with mathematical accuracy or not is another issue.

You can even write tuplets that cross bar lines - though some notation software can't handle that yet, even though I have a published score (composer Scriabin) using that notation more than 100 years ago.

• Do you ever actually need to write a tuplet which crosses a bar line? I can't think of a case for it unless you really feel it's necessary to indicate phrasing. Mar 17, 2016 at 8:26
• @MatthewWalton a semihemiola? :-) Mar 17, 2016 at 11:36

Might need a more concrete example of the kind of thing you're asking. But if you mean: can you do something like a quaver triplet on beat one and a semiquaver triplet and quaver rest on beat 2 in common time, yes, absolutely. But making 1.5 beats into a triplet is just three straight (non-triplet) quavers, so in that sense - no.