I want to know how to interpret this. I researched a bit but only read about multiple voices, which are obviously not present here.

The whole piece is in 4/4, only this one measure contains 5 quarters. Maybe it has something to do with the triplet?

  • just for interest, for what instrumentation is the piece you are asking for?
    – nath
    Jan 14, 2018 at 1:13
  • @nath Looks like piano, I'd say
    – Arsak
    Jan 15, 2018 at 18:13

2 Answers 2


It is to do with the triplet. The three quarters are played in the time of two, so there are only four beats in the bar. Hope this helps!

  • 4
    Correct. I don't want to create a competing answer, but I want to throw in this: Within a triplet, every note has 2/3 the duration it would otherwise. But rather than getting distracted with thinking of it that way, it's generally good just to imagine the three quarter note as the "frame" and play everything within the triplet relative to them.
    – Epanoui
    Jan 13, 2018 at 18:28

as addition, here is a simple score example to illustrate the counting of 3 quarter triplets against straight quarter counting in a 4/4 time signature:

enter image description here

in your special case the rhythm would be as follows:

enter image description here


  • tweaked a bit on the proportions of the first image.
  • why this is a score example and not a diagram (image)
  • why a piano player should be able to count straight 4th against triplet 4th, called "poly-rhythm, 3 against 2" (image)
  • 2
    I dislike the diagram you've used. It sort of implies by its spacing that the rhythm is closer to an 1/8th note followed by a quarter note, followed by another 8th note for the triplet, instead of having them evenly spaced as they're supposed to be played. Jan 13, 2018 at 21:27
  • I'm confused by the "count" line. It implies you should count the triplet as two quarter notes, when in reality, most people count all three (shortened) notes
    – cat40
    Jan 14, 2018 at 0:11
  • @nath I don't know about pianos and which line they tend to count, but as a viola player, I would count the top line as "trip-u-let 2 3" (or 3 4) or "1-and-a 2 3" (or 3 4). Counting it as "1 2 3 4" would be very confusing because the 1 and 2 don't fall on notes, but in between them, and one is rather inclined to play on counts
    – cat40
    Jan 14, 2018 at 1:10
  • 1
    @nath No, but the OP asked how to count it (or more precisely, interpret, but counting really helps with this). I don't really see how instrument would affect counting, except in the case of instruments with multiple voices to count (as I mentioned in my previous comment, I don't know which line would be counted, though I would guess it would be the more complex line). And a piano could be considered a string instrument if you really wanted to [grin]
    – cat40
    Jan 14, 2018 at 1:19
  • @cat40 Piano is an instrument with multiple voices, and well in the case you consider the piano as grouped to the string instruments, a guitar could be considered a percussion instrument. Well anyway I did not consider a simple score example to be so confusing.
    – nath
    Jan 14, 2018 at 4:13

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