From the below image, What does the 3 above the three quarter notes represent? I attempted to look it up here but I did not find anything similar to it.


I am assuming it makes the 3 notes shorter, due to the fact that if you add together the three ♪, the 8th rest, and the three ♩ you get a total of 1¼. But I would like a detailed explanation of what I should be doing when I play it.


1 Answer 1


The 3 indicates a triplet. The quarter notes should be played at 2/3rds their normal duration. You end up with the three quarter notes taking up the last 2 beats of the measure, divided equally.

  • 2
    A tip that was useful to me as to how to play it when you don't know how a triplet over several beats sounds or feel : play 3 "eight" notes for both quarter note, making it 6 1/8 over 2 1/4. Then only play the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of that group : that is where the attacks of the triplet will fall. A bit like adding fractions with different denominators, really.
    – Pif
    Sep 21, 2012 at 9:08
  • @Pif, actually that is EXACTLY what I did last night trying to figure it out on my own. Sep 21, 2012 at 13:43
  • 1
    That's because it's the right way to do it (^_^). As an example, here's someone taking this approach too far vai.com/tempo-mental (O_o)
    – Pif
    Sep 21, 2012 at 14:52
  • 1
    The way I learned the timing was from "Carol of the Bells"; the rhythm is a transposition of a triplet pattern over a tuplet pattern. BTW, in triplet times like 6/8, you can see the reverse; a "2" and bracket will be placed over two notes, indicating a "tuplet"; those two notes should be played in the space of three of the same note value in the natural time.
    – KeithS
    Sep 25, 2012 at 22:39
  • 4
    As for quintuplets and septuplets, etc, they are seen, especially in solo pieces and etudes. In those situations, the advice I got from a working professional violinist was, don't try to count or subdivide it; just cram all the notes into the space you're given and chalk up any variance as artistic expression :)
    – KeithS
    Sep 25, 2012 at 22:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.