I am studying the concept of using triplet vocal melodies over a groove that sounds straight. I can think of a few examples but the most common one that comes to mind is the famous song "Wicked Game by Chris Isaak". The first phrase in the verse is

(the) World was on fire, no one could save me but you

If you listen to the original studio recording it sure sounds like triplets to me but then when I look at the sheet music for it, it is notated using dotted quarter notes. I have 3 questions here please:

1) Are they the same thing in this song? When I compare the dotted quarter notes in my DAW over a 16th note grid and then switch the grid to 16th note triplets, it is kind of the same but not really. I guess the difference is minimal? 2) Is it just me or does the rest of the arrangement sound straight? If so, then shouldn't we consider that the vocal melody is dotted quarter notes instead of triplets? 3) Can anyone think of any songs that use triplets over a straight arrangement?


  • You could notate it either way - I'd say 'yes it's triplets'... however, he shifts it around so much over the course of the song that he never really hits exactly the same timing twice. A lot of it could be considered as "8ths.. but late". It's called 'artistic interpretation' & I think he does it rather well ;) – Tetsujin Dec 10 '17 at 9:52
  • For me the best example would be 'It ain't necessarily so' from Gershwin's Porgy & Bess - triplet quarter-notes all the way through against straight quarter-notes. There's also the Habanera from Carmen. – Tom Sharpe Dec 10 '17 at 10:47
  • Is that the same sort of thing that happened in the late '50s, where a lot of session players were used to playing a swing rhythm and recorded against the straight eight new guitarists? Early Elvis tracks for starters. – Tim Dec 10 '17 at 11:00
  • @Tom Sharpe Thanks for the examples. I was hoping for something in a similar style :) but I still liked the examples and have listened to both. Regarding Gershwin. arent the triplets over whole notes? The bass seems to be playing whole beats as do the strings when the vocal is going. – armani Dec 10 '17 at 18:50
  • By "late 8ths" do you mean swung 8ths? – armani Dec 10 '17 at 18:51

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