Good things come in threes says rockschool’s Charlie Grif­fiths as he con­tin­ues his 14-part se­ries on learn­ing to read mu­sic.

Guitar Techniques - - Contents - NEXT MONTH: Charlie looks at read­ing the var­i­ous or­na­ments in mu­sic

Charlie Grif­fiths counts triplets and sex­tu­plets.

So far in this se­ries we have es­tab­lished that the quar­ter note, or ‘crotchet’ equates to the tempo of the mu­sic - that reg­u­lar ‘pulse’ within the mu­sic, to which you feel most in­clined to tap your foot. We then went on to sub­di­vide this quar­ter note into smaller and smaller units of time called 8th notes and 16th notes. Even the most hum­ble of math­e­mat­i­cal ge­niuses among you will have spot­ted that we di­vided the ini­tial quar­ter note by two. Eighth notes are the same as ‘two notes per beat’ and 16th notes are there­fore ‘four notes per beat’. The­o­ret­i­cally you can keep sub­di­vid­ing the notes in two to make 32nd and 64th notes and so on, but those would be a lit­tle too fast for sight-read­ing at this stage.

So this month we re­turn to our ini­tial quar­ter note and this time use the num­ber 3 as the unit of di­vi­sion. Di­vid­ing a quar­ter note into three cre­ates three equally sized notes called ‘8th-note triplets’. Th­ese are in­di­cated on the stave as three 8th notes beamed to­gether with a sin­gle hor­i­zon­tal line. Par­al­lel to the beam­ing line there is an ad­di­tional bracket with the num­ber 3 placed in the mid­dle. This bracket es­sen­tially says ‘squeeze three equal notes into this beat’. an en­tire bar of triplets would be counted as fol­lows: 1 & a, 2& a, 3 & a, 4 & a. The nu­mer­i­cal val­ues rep­re­sent the down­beats within the bar and the ‘in-be­tween’ syl­la­bles are the re­main­ing triplets; th­ese should be vo­calised evenly to en­sure each note is equal in length. Count­ing is es­pe­cially im­por­tant when com­bin­ing 8th notes and 8th-note rests; th­ese can be com­bined in any or­der and brack­eted to­gether into groups of three, as shown in Ex­am­ple 1.

Six­teenth-note triplets are dou­ble the speed of 8th-note triplets. Six­teenth-note triplets or ‘sex­tu­plets’ look much like an 8th-note triplet, ex­cept they are beamed to­gether with two hor­i­zon­tal lines in­stead of one. Six­teenth-note triplets are typ­i­cally beamed to­gether into groups of six and have a brack­eted num­ber 6 to in­di­cate that there are six notes per beat. Six­teenths can also be beamed to­gether with 8th-notes to make more com­plex rhythms as shown in Ex­am­ple 4 (see also Chops Shop on p74).

Eighth-notes take up ex­actly half the time as quar­ter-notes and can be counted ‘1& 2 & 3 &4 &’.

as well as dou­bling the speed of 8th-note triplets, we can also halve the speed to make quar­ter-note triplets which are shown in Ex­am­ple 3 as three brack­eted quar­ter-notes. Th­ese last for half a bar and squeeze three crotch­ets into the space where there are usu­ally two.

fi­nally we have Ex­am­ple 5 which shows that com­pound time sig­na­tures such as 12/8 are popular for triplet rhythms. With 12/8, there are a dozen 8th-notes per bar, which ren­ders the triplet bracket ob­so­lete (each beat is worth a dot­ted crotchet).

The fol­low­ing rhyth­mic ex­am­ples use a com­bi­na­tion of quar­ter-note triplets, 8th-note triplets and 16th-note triplets. The ex­er­cises are played on var­i­ous notes, which en­ables you to con­cen­trate on the rhyth­mic in­for­ma­tion but also start to com­bine rhythms with note find­ing on the fret­board. Ex­am­ple 5 is the most chal­leng­ing ex­am­ple as it con­tains a lot of rhyth­mic and melodic in­for­ma­tion. as al­ways, use a metronome or drum ma­chine to en­sure that the ex­am­ples are played at a con­sis­tent tempo, and feel free to in­crease or de­crease the sug­gested 60bpm to suit your cur­rent level.

This month Charlie looks at 8th-note and 16th-note triplets

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