An introduction to music theory

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3.2 Triplets

In Section 3.1, Example 14, you saw that as you move down the list of time values from semibreve to semiquaver, each successive time value is half the length of the one above (for example, you saw that a quaver is half the length of a crotchet). However, you can divide a time value not only by two but by any number you want. The most frequent division you will come across, the next in frequency to the default division of two, is where a time value is divided into three equal components – say a crotchet divided into three quavers or a minim divided into three crotchets. This is called a triplet. As you can see and hear in Example 15, the crotchet is divided into three triplet quavers, the minim into three triplet crotchets.

Example 15

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At this stage, you needn’t worry about this in any detail. However, notice in Example 15 how triplets are notated with a figure three over or under the relevant notes, the figure often being combined with either a curved line or square bracket.