I tried so hard to understand the difference between notes and beats but I couldn't. Surprisingly there are countless videos on the subject on youtube, but no video could drive the point home.

One video on youtube at 1:18 mentioned that a quarter note triplet is worth 2 beats, why? How can I be able to work out the time signature absolutely spot on? I particularly confuse 6/8 and 3/4 because the former simplifies mathematically to the latter. How does the different time signatures affect the sound of music?

1 Answer 1


A "triplet" means "three notes played in the time of two." So a triplet of quarter notes takes the same time as two quarter notes, or two beats.

Different time signatures affect the rhythm of the music, by telling you which notes in each bar are accented (i.e. louder than the rest). 6/8 and 3/4 time can both have six eight-notes in a bar, but in 6/8 time there are two groups of 3 notes and in 3/4 time there are three groups of 2 notes. The main accent is on the first note in each bar, but there is a smaller accent on the first note of the other groups. So if all the notes are 8th-notes, the accents in 6/8 would be like this ("X" is the main accent, "x" is a smaller accent, and "." is an unaccented note)

6/8 | X . . x . . | X . . x . . | X . . x . . | etc

and in 3/4 like this

3/4 | X . x . x . | X . x . x . | X . x . x . | etc
  • Thanks. Two questions: given a bunch of notes, how to work out the time signature? What is the difference between a "triplet" and three connected quavers? May 7, 2017 at 2:12
  • (1) Often you can't work out the time signature just by looking at the notes. You have to listen to the music and notice where the accents are. (2) A triplet has a "3" written over it, and often a bracket or a curved slur over the three notes.
    – user19146
    May 7, 2017 at 4:11
  • Well thanks, I will try to look into it more. I do have a side question that's been bothering me for a while. Why are the notes are grouped in the way they are. Is there a way to work out the groupings of notes? May 8, 2017 at 3:47
  • ^vote with a note: Might be worth adding that 6/8 is essentially the same as (but cleaner to notate than) 2/4 that consists mostly of 1/8-note triplets.
    – lauir
    May 8, 2017 at 17:25

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