Understanding and finding the quarter note triplet can be tricky. So below is a way in.

First what is the quarter note triplet? Well just like a quarter note is 1/2 an 8th note, a, 1/4 note triplet is just half of an 8th note triplet. 8th note triplets are what you play when you have a 1/4 note pulse and count “1 ta ta, 2 ta ta, 3 ta ta, 4 ta ta” (or “1 trip let, 2 trip let, 3 trip let 4 trip let”). Below is the rhythmic subdivision tree for 1/4’s, 1/8’s and their triplet analogs.

Question: how many 8th note triplets are there for every 1/4 note triplet, and how many 1/4 note triplets are there in a bar of 4/4 (Answers at the bottom of the page)?

Now we understand what the 1/4 note triplet is,  it’s time to ‘find’ it. Remember, that any rhythmic subdivision has meaning only in the context of a pulse. So, let’s start off with a 1/4 not pulse, and play 1/8 note triplets played with single strokes.

If we rest alternate 1/8th note triplets, we see that the each hand was playing 1/4 note triplets all along! This makes sense since the 1/8 note triplet is just 1/2 of a 1/4 note triplet – take away 1 hand and you remove half of the notes. So, to hear the 1/4 triplet, sit at your drums with a stick in your lead hand and your other hand on your lap. Now play 1/8 note triplets, and your playing 1/4 note triplets on the kit! Playing the other way round with your lead hand silenced, your still playing 1/4 triplets, but they’re displaced across the 1/4 note pulse by an 1/8 note triplet.

By playing the previous example on the kit, it’s simple to play quarter note triplet accents around the tom-toms. The above example illustrates a simple way of incorporating the 1/4 note triplet into a drum fill. Make up your own variations on this exercise to develop ideas which you can incorporate into your playing.

One way to internalise the 1/4 note triplet pulse over a 1/4 note pulse is to view the interplay between the two as a 3:2 polyrhythm (spoken as 3 over 2) – that is a pulse of 3 beats overlapping a pulse of two. In the example below, I have written the 1/4 note pulse (hi-hat foot) on top of the 1/4 note triplet pulse (played using the lead hand accents from the 8th note triplets as above), and you can see that for every 2 whole quarter notes, we have have 3 1/4 note triplets. Hence, playing quarter note triplets over a quarter note pulse is equivalent to playing a 3:2 polyrhythm.

For more on the 3:2 polyrhythm and how to access it, see 3:2 polyrhythm








(There are 2 1/8 note triplets for every 1/4 note triplet, and 6 1/4 note triplets in a bar of 4/4,


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