Counting Musical Tuplets With Audio

duplet is a group of two notes, which spans three of its note-type:

  • ♫ Hear Example #1: Eighth-note duplets span three eighth-notes of normal length (equal to one dotted quarter-note).
  • ♫ Hear Example #2: Sixteenth-note duplets span one dotted eighth-note.

Counting Musical Duplets

Eighth-note and sixteenth-note duplets.
Use the first measure in each passage to get a feel for the length of the duplet note-grouping (one dotted quarter-note equals three eighth-notes; one dotted eighth-note equals three sixteenth-notes). Image © Brandy Kraemer

If you’re having trouble grasping the duplet rhythm, break the measure down into smaller parts. In example #1, which has eighth-note duplets, you’ll use the sixteenth-note beat as your reference (sixteenth-notes fall on the ‘ands’ below); Count:

1 and2and 3and

The first note of the duplet occurs on the 1, and the second note falls on the and after the 2.

Counting Musical Triplets

Eighth-note and quarter-note triplets in 4/4 and 6/8 time.
It’s easiest to count triplets using a singular note-length: Use the first measure to find your beat. Image © Brandy Kraemer

Length of the Triplet Note-Grouping

A triplet is a group of three notes played in the length of two of its note-value:

  • ♫ Hear Example #1: Eighth-note triplets span the length of two normal eighth-notes, or one quarter-note.
  • ♫ Hear Example #2: Quarter-note triplets span one half-note.
  • ♫ Hear Example #3: In 6/8 time, think of a measure as having three pairs of eighth-notes rather than having two sets of threes; this method makes it easier to find the triplet rhythm.

How to Count Triplets

Once you find your beat (in example #1 this is the quarter-note), count 1-2-3  2-2-3  3-2-3  4-2-3. You can also try the syllablized ‘trip-uh-let’ to catch your rhythm, or count one-trip-let, two-trip-let, and so on.

Counting Musical Quadruplets

Musical quadruplets in 6/8 and 9/8 time.
Use the first measures to find your beat; one dotted quarter-note equals three eighth-notes. (Note example #2 is in 9/8 time.). Image © Brandy Kraemer

Length of the Quadruplet Note-Grouping

A quadruplet is a group of four notes that spans three of its note-type. Other rhythmic variations are indicated by a ratio:

  • ♫ Hear Example #1: The 4:3 quadruplet is implied in many time signatures.
  • ♫ Hear Example #2: 4:3 fits best in the 9/8 and 12/8 time signatures, because their eighth-notes are grouped into threes (strictly speaking, 6/8 contains three pairs of eighth-notes, not two groups of threes).
  • ♫ Hear Example #3: The 4:6 quadruplet allows for the feel of common time in 6/8. This particular notation may also be written as duplets.

How to Count Quadruplets

Use the syllablized ‘quad-rup-uh-let,’ or count 1-quad-rup-let 2-quad-rup-let to grab the rhythm.

Counting Musical Quintuplets

Musical quintuplets written in 5:3 and 5:4.
Use the first measure to find your reference beat. (One dotted quarter-note equals three eighth-notes.). Image © Brandy Kraemer

Length of the Quintuplet Note-Grouping

A quintuplet is a group of five notes played in the length of three or four of its note-type. For clarification, a ratio may be written:

  • ♫ Hear Example #1: One eighth-note quintuplet in 5:4 spans four normal eighth-notes (or one half-note).
  • ♫ Hear Example #2: The 5:3 ratio means five notes span three eighth-notes. This variation fits well in 9/8 and 12/8 time, since their beats are organized by threes (12/8 contains four groups of three eighth-notes, as opposed to three groups of four).

How to Count Quintuplets

After you find your reference beat, use the words “hip-po-pot-am-us” or “op-por-tun-i-ty” to feel the quintuplet rhythm.

Counting Musical Septuplets

Musical septuplets written with ratios.
Use the first measure to find your reference beat (notice the dotted eighth-rest at the end of passage #2). Image © Brandy Kraemer

Length of the Septuplet Note-Grouping

A septuplet is a note-grouping of seven, commonly played in the length of four or six of its note-type:

Since it’s somewhat rare for a division of seven notes to appear in the middle of a song, the time signature 7/8 tends to be used instead – that way, the entire song is affected.

How to Count Musical Septuplets

To count septuplets, first find your reference beat; then use the phrases “list-en to these se-ven notes” or “sil-ly hip-po-pot-a-mus” to feel the septuplet rhythm.