Introduction: How to Play 8th Note Triplets on the Piano

Picture of How to Play 8th Note Triplets on the Piano

Triplets are groups of 3...of anything. My friend has triplet daughters!

In piano playing, we see triplets a lot our music.

Any kind of "alternative" rhythmic notation in music is called a Tuplet, and one type of Tuplet is called a Triplet.

Triplets can be played in quarter beats (image 2) and 8th note beats (image 3)

Triplets are always notated in our music with a 3 over the notes that are in the triplet beat.

We're going to learn today how to play 8th note triplets as they take a specific way of counting that can be challenging when you first start out playing them.

First, let's review what you need to already know rhythmically to be ready to play 8th note triplets.

Step 1: Time Signatures

Picture of Time Signatures

Remember that your Time Signature tells you how many and what kind of beat each measure is getting.

My basic formula is this: The top number in the time signature tells you "how many" and the bottom number tells you "of what".

If your music is in 4/4 time then this means that you will have 4 quarter beats in each measure. See how we got that? The top number "how many" is 4 and the bottom number "of what" is 4, which stands for a quarter note in music.

This applies to any time signature in our music.

Next, lets' review some basic counting and what types of notes get how many counts.

Step 2: Rhythmic Note Values

Picture of Rhythmic Note Values

At this point, you have already learned how to count whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, and 8th notes.

Remember that:

  • Whole notes = 4 beats
  • Half notes = 2 beats
  • Quarter notes = 1 beat
  • 8th notes = 1/2 of a beat

If we combine this with our Key signatures then we know that in a 4/4 key signature, for example, we are counting 4 quarter beats in each measure and each measure would contain:

  • 1 whole note
  • 2 half notes
  • 4 quarter notes
  • 8 eighth notes

Next, let's take a look at Triplets and get a general idea of what they are.

Step 3: Triplets

Picture of Triplets

Again, triplets are groups of 3; so in music, this means that a triplet is made up of 3 notes, that fit into 1 beat.

Triplets are notated in our music with the number '3' over the group of notes in the triplet.

We find a variety of different types of triplets, such as half note triplets, (image 1) quarter note triplets and 8th note triplets, (image 2).

Each different type of triplet is counted a specific way and it is best to learn how to count and play each one individually before trying to mix them up in our playing.

Now...let's find out how easy it actually is to count triplet 8th notes!

Step 4: Counting 8th Note Triplets the Easy Way

Picture of Counting 8th Note Triplets the Easy Way

Say these '3' words...<---perfect for learning how to count a triplet!

Here they are:

  • " One-Trip-let"

Actually, they aren't all words per se, but different syllables. The reason for this is so you can have a separate emphasis for each note in the triplet.

Say them a few times in a steady tempo to feel the beat and rhythmic pulse.

Now, what you do is apply these syllables to each beat in your measure - changing the first word to match whatever beat you are on. Just like this:

  • "One-trip-let"
  • "Two-trip-let"
  • "Three-trip-let"
  • "Four-trip-let"

You count one for each beat, whether you have a 4/4, 3/4, or any other kind of key signature.

Another easy way to learn to feel the triplet pattern is to count while you say the beats as you're going through your music. Just make sure that your claps and your words match up and aren't coming after one another.

Now that you've practiced how to count 8th note triplets by counting and clapping them, it's time to play them on the piano; so come practice with me!

Step 5: Come Practice With Me!

This short video tutorial goes over all the aspects of counting and playing 8th note triplets in this lesson and gives you the opportunity to watch me play and count them on the piano.

You will also get to practice playing them during the video which will give you some solid footing on learning how to incorporate these fun triplets into your own piano playing. I also show you how to write them on your music staff in case you are ready to use them in your own music compositions.

You can come back to this video anytime you like just to confirm that what you are playing is correct.

Good luck with learning 8th note triplets and continued success on your journey of playing the piano!