How to Play Triplets

NONHAMTriplets are one of the most important patterns to learn as a drummer. They are just as important as practicing your regular drum rudiments, and should be played just as regularly. You can add triplets anywhere in a song or beat, and play them on any drum or cymbal. The best part of triplets is that once you get the “triplet feel” you can play them with pretty much anything – like a double stroke roll triplet, a paradiddle triplet, and more! Legendary drummer John Bonham (right) is a king of the triplets, using them in his drum solos. As a drummer, it is very important you learn how to play triplets all over the drum set; but first, let’s learn the basics of a triplet.

A triplet is basically a group of 3 notes played in a different “feel” than your regular beat. The easiest way to play these is by counting them out loud first. If you are unsure of the best way to countcertain time signatures, check out my how to article on How to Count Time Signautures. There are a number of ways to count triplets, let me show you the best way. Simply count out the name:


Compare this to your regular count and you will see the difference.


Notice how the triplets have more words to say? This means there are more beats then in a triplet then regular. Now, the trick to triplets is they are played in the same tempo as the beat you are already playing. So as you can see there are more notes in the triplets, but both counts are counted in the same tempo, meaning you start and end at the same time.

Let’s learn how to read triplets on sheet music. Triplets are actually very easy to spot. They will be a group of notes grouped together with a number 3 above them. Make sure when you see them, you make sure you look to see if they are eight note triplets, 16th note triplets and so on. If you do not know the difference, please refer to the HOW TO article on How to Read Drum Notation. Here are a few examples of some triplets that you may come across in your regular playing. Take your time and count them out before you play them.

sheet music

sheet music

sheet music

Triplets are used in all sorts of beats and styles of music. The essential jazz pattern is made from triplets on the ride cymbal. Also, check out the shuffle beat on the drums. This is another groove that is made from triplets around the kit!

There you have it! Triplets broken down as easily as I could. The triplet feel can use single stroke rolls, praradiddles, bass drum patterns, double stroke rolls and more. Having said that, when you practice these basic rudiments, make sure you practice them with the triplet feel as well! Most drummers have been playing triplets for years but don’t know it! Make sure you can identify when you are playing triplets and when you aren’t. You will be a better musician for it!

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