Playing Triplets On Drums - A Discussion

Posted by Jam Addict Staff

This article will discuss playing triplets on drums and whether you should really bother with them.

In this week's column, to coincide with the release of Vic Firth's latest Deluxe Bundle, we look at the performance of triplets in drumming and how to incorporate them into your playing.

Triplets are vital tool in the arsenal of a drummer and it is good to take some time out of your practice schedule to study them.

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Personally, they are my favorite rudiment and I love how infinite the musical possibilities are with distributing them around the drum kit.

Does playing triplets on drums help or hinder you in any way?

drummer playing to a click track

The basic idea behind playing triplets on drums is quite simple: inside a beat of time, you hit the drum three times.

You can play triplets on one drum or distribute the hits around the drums and cymbals.

The reason for playing triplets is twofold. Three hits per beat is a very catchy and strong statement musically. Triplets, or even just the 'triplet feel' is a very groovy and hip musical phrase that should be a part of any drummer or musician's vocabulary.

Another reason is that by playing triplets you can develop a really good sense of time as a drummer because you are able to hear different subdivisions of a beat.

Triplets are a drummer's secret weapon

drum sets for adults

In order to get a solid grasp of triplets you need to first practice them on one drum. Let's play some triplets on the snare drum.

Here we see that inside each beat you have 3 notes. You'll also notice that you switch hands for the start of each 3 beats if you play the strokes in an alternating fashion.

So for example we would play with our hands: RLR LRL RLR LRL (R=right hand, L=left hand).

Play this for a while until you get comfortable.

Let's put the combination around the drum kit

The best way to get comfortable with triplets is to play them around the kit. So let's start experimenting with putting our foot in one of the triplet spaces.

We will put our kick drum at the last note of the triplet. So that will sound like this.

For those who are just beginning at drums, this will feel strange and will be difficult to do smoothly. But if we practice to a metronome then eventually it will get smooth and steady.

Remember that when you are hitting the kick drum try to experiment with different foot techniques. Some drummers prefer heel up, while others heel down. The important part is to make sure that you feel comfortable and that you don't strain yourself while practicing.

Let's experiment with some more exercises.

Playing triplets around the drums

Now let's take this same pattern but put it around the drums. We will keep with the same pattern of RLK (right hand, left hand, kick drum).

But instead of just limiting it to a snare drum we will go around the toms with it.

Listen to the following example.

As you can see we've started on the snare drum but then moved our hands to the rack tom for the second set of triplets. Then we move to the floor tom for the third set of triplets and then back to the snare drum for the last set of triplets.

The cycle then repeats and you can see yourself moving around the drums and incorporating all of your limbs at the same time!

This exercise was made for drum kits with 2 toms, but it also works great also if you have 3 toms. Therefore you can move from the snare drum to Tom 1, then Tom 2, then Tom 3.

The cycle then repeats with the snare drum on the first beat.

Let's try one more example.

Use your cymbals!

Let's practice using your hi-hat in a triplet fashion.

Let's take this exact same exercise as before, with the bass drum on the last note of the triplet (RLK) and make it a little more musical.

We will simply replace the first note of the triplet (the right hand) with only the hi-hat (instead of a snare drum or any of the toms). The left hand will continue to travel across the drums.

That's all for now

Hopefully these exercises will get you practicing in a different way than you normally do and can help spark some creativity in the practice room!

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