Triplets in groups of 4 – part 1

In this lesson I am going to introduce a way to phrase triplets so that you can create another feel on top of a 4/4 groove. It is especially useful on top of medium swing or shuffle grooves since these already have a triplet feel to them. The lesson consists of three parts. Two sets of exercises, one for triplets in general and one for playing them in 4 note groupings, and then a few examples of lines that you can use as models for your one ideas.

Basic Triplet Exercises

Let’s first do a simple check up on triplets, how you play them and how you can practice them towards this kind of phrasing.

Triplets in groups of 4 - part 1 - ex 1

Exercise 1 is a basic triplet pattern with three notes from the A minor/C major pentatonic scale. Try to play them and tap your foot at the same time on the quarter notes. Once this is easy try to play only 2 of the three notes as I demonstrate in the video.

In exercise 2 we take another more difficult pattern and play it in triplets: Diatonic triads. Because they are three notes they lend themselves quite wel to this rhythm, and are a good preparation for the 3rd exercise.

Triplets in groups of 4 - part 1 - ex 2

The 3rd exercise is beginning to point towards the goal of this lesson, since it is playing the C major scale in diatonic 3rds. This melody consists of 2 note groupings so it does not fit with the triplet feel like the triads, and once you can play it in time it is a good exercise to start to accent the first note of each third. That way you have a rhythm that moves across beats 2 and 4 and lands on 1 and 3.

Triplets in groups of 4 - part 1 - ex 3


Triplets in 4 note groupings

In example 4 I have written out a simple pentatonic scale pattern that I repeat over the bar. In the video you can hear the change in the feel when I start tapping my foot. You should notice that the pattern only starts on the beat on the 1 of each bar.

Triplets in groups of 4 - part 1 - ex 4

Example 5 is another pattern that is also useful to check out: an 7th chord arpeggio, in this case Cmaj7.

Triplets in groups of 4 - part 1 - ex 5

In example 6 I start to use another rhythm by only playing three notes instead of 4. The fact that you don’t play all the subdivisions might be difficult so it’s good to try out these exercises and get familiar with them. If you master it it can be a very good idea to shift it so that the rest is on a different place, this will give you 4 other exercises.

Triplets in groups of 4 - part 1 - ex 6

The example lines

In my examples on how I use this I am keeping it fairly basic. The best way to practice using this is in my opinion to start with some sort of static groove or metronome beat and then come up with 4 or 3 note phrases that can be moved across the bar in the way I demonstrated in examples 4-6.

Triplets in groups of 4 - part 1 - ex 7

Example 7 is exactly that, a 4 note excerpt of an F minor pentatonic scale. repeated in triplets. This is one of the easiest ways to start, but remember that you also have to be able to musically get into it and out of it again in the middle of a solo.

The next example is less repetetive and trying to demonstrate how you can use this technique to imply another feel on top of the groove. The idea is to play lines that are clearly 4 note groupings, but not a motif, just a line thus giving the impression that the meter is 6/4 (3x 4 8th notes)

Triplets in groups of 4 - part 1 - ex 8

In the last example I am using the rhythm from example 6 but I am alternating 2 motifs so that the pattern that it produces is 8 beats long not 4 as the other ones.  The pattern I use consists of an Fm7 and an Ab major7 shell voicing

Triplets in groups of 4 - part 1 - ex 9

I hope you can use the material I presented here. This is a device that I use very frequently to add rhythmical variation to my solos, especially in medium swing.  It can also be translated to 3/4 and 6/8 and be used quite effectively, but that is for another lesson.

As always you can download the examples as a pdf here:

Triplets in groups of 4 – part 1

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