That quirky rhythmic figure–the half note triplet–has confounded beginning drum students (and music students in general) for eons. In this post, we’ll dispel the mystery by explaining everything you need to know. Let’s dive right in.
To understand how the half note triplet works, you need to use the eighth note triplet as your guide. Start with a measure of eighth note triplets. Now, accent the first note, the fifth note and the ninth note of series. Those three notes you’ve accented make up the half note triplet. This is confusing without a visual, so let’s get out the diagram! The PDF here will explain it all: Understanding Half Note Triplets
Got the PDF? Good. It should all be clear. Count the following out loud, and clap on the syllables that are bolded and in all CAPS: “ONE-trip-let-two-TRIP-let-three-trip-LET-four-trip-let.” And that’s all there is to it.
If you missed the earlier related article about quarter note triplets (another quirky little devil of a rhythm), you can learn about them here: “Understanding Quarter Note Triplets”
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Lisa Valentino says
Thanks Mark for this writing. The PDF makes the concept readily understandable. I recall being about 12 years old, and my first drum teacher trying to explan the half note triplet to me. He did not do so in the manner you use here, and I remember thinking WTF?
There were many times I said WTF during those early lessons. I loved that teacher, but every so often he made something more difficult than it actually was.
One of the things I like most about your teaching style is how you present ideas in a way that make them immediately accessible. I believe that skill is useful for the beginnner student, as well as the more advanced student.
Looking forward to seeing more great stuff from you.
Mark Feldman says
Hi Lisa – Thank you so much for the kind words. I try to explain this stuff in the clearest way I can think of for similar reasons….it wasn’t always so clear to me either. Please keep reading and letting me know your thoughts….even if you don’t like something!
John Tilton says
Hi Mark, I have been trying to confuse myself rhythmically by setting a metronome to beat on the 1 beat, and then counting a measure of 4/4 time followed by a measure of 3/4 time, and then back to 4/4 time and so forth. I’m a guitar player, not a drummer.
Is the measure of 3/4, in relationship to the measure of 4/4 time, a half note triplet?
Mark Feldman says
Thanks for your question.
Actually, no, a 3/4 measure relative to a 4/4 measure is not the same relationship. The math of quarter note triplets is 2 vs 3 and what you’re explaining is 4 vs 3……
Hope this helps!