Triplet Rhythms – Part 1

One of the first things you should start checking out with rhythm is how to play triplets and what rhythms you can create using this subdivision. 8th note triplets are a really great way to add some variation to a solo and you can make some surprisingly hip lines with them.

Rhythm, Feel and Timing

I have probably mentioned this before, but in the end rhythm and feel is more deciding for me in whether I like a performance in a concert or a recording, so I will try to add more lessons on this subject. As Mick Goodrick says about playing in a jazz band: “The only thing everyone is playing is rhythm”

When you are playing jazz you are probably often playing medium swing, and one of the rhythms that is easy to apply to swing is to use 8th note triplets. 8th note triplets are a powerful tool to create some very hip rhythms and metric modulations within a solo, and at the same time it is technically not too difficult to work with in a medium tempo, at least not if you compare it to something like double time lines.

Getting started

Here are some simple exercises that you can use to get more used to 8th note triples by including them in your scale exercises and you might notice that some of the scale exercises are already beginning to start polyrhythmic.

In example 1 I have listed four exercises on an Eb major scale that you can do to get better at feeling and thinking 8th note triplets. Playing the scale and playing the triads in 8th note triplets are fairly easy and straight forward and fit well in the meter. Playing in diatonic thirds and  diatonic 7th chords is moving very differently on top of the quarter note pulse, since even numbered note groupings will shift over the beat.

Triplet rhythms - Part 1 Ex 1

I think you probably will not have too much trouble with some of the scale exercises and maybe you can just use them to check how familiar you are with triplets.

Once you have that in you system you could start playing in triplets over a static chord and get used to that. Make sure to experiment a lot and try grouping the notes in 4 and 5 notes to get some of those sounds out of it.

The next step is to start applying it to a progression or a song. Example 2 is a II V I in the key of Eb which is using 8th note triplets. In terms of what note material I am using in the line there isn’t really anything very special so I am not going to go into that.

Triplet rhythms - Part 1 Ex 2

Some useful triplet rhythms

In example 3 I’ve written out a way of playing the arpeggio of each chord in a triplet rhythm. The rhythm is 2 beats long and contains 4 notes, so in that way you can easily transfer your 8th note lines to triplets and use the melodies you already know. I wrote it out like this because my notation software was making it very hard to read otherwise. I’d suggest you practice it like this but also as repeating the rhythm to fill the entire bar. I demonstrate this in the video.

Triplet rhythms - Part 1 Ex 3

To give an example of how you can use this rhythm in a II V I, I’ve made example 4. You’ll notice that on the Bb7alt where I use the rhythm I am chaining to arpeggios together: A G#m7b5 and an E7 arpeggio.

Triplet rhythms - Part 1 Ex 4

The second rhythm that I suggest you check out is showed in example 5. I have again chosen to only write it out for half a bar instead for the whole bar, but you should probably practice it with the half note and also just repeating to fill up the bar.

Triplet rhythms - Part 1 Ex 5

An example of a II V I line with this rhythm is shown in example 6. The part of the line is in fact just a pentatonic scale in groups of 4 notes a pattern that when used in 8th notes gets quite heavy on the beat and which I probably would not otherwise use. The pentatonic scale is a C# minor or E major pentatonic scale which is the only pentatonic scale you have in B melodic minor (or E altered if you will)

Triplet rhythms - Part 1 Ex 6

I hope you could use the ideas and exercises I went over here. I use triplet rhythms quite often and as I mentioned already it is a very powerful tool to create some variation in solos and just mix it up a bit from all the 8th note lines.

If you want to download a PDF of the examples I went over here you can do so here:

Triplet rhythms – Part 1

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please feel free to leave on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make thme fit what you want to hear.

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