Tuplets And Guitar – What You Need To Know?

Elvis Elvis

Quite a word, isn’t it? In general, tuplets are clusters of notes whose individual note value is not equal to a power of two. This will make more sense in a bit.

Triplets and Sextuplets

The eighth-note triplet above is equal in time to two regular eighth notes, which means that triplets are played slightly faster than their regular note counterparts. You want to play these by emphasizing the first of every three notes, like ONE-two-three ONE-two-three, etc.

On that note, sextuplets (or tuplets with six notes) are essentially two groups of triplets set end-to-end. This simply means that six notes are played in the span normally required for four. Emphasize every third note just like triplets: ONE-two-three-FOUR-five-six ONE-two-three-FOUR-five-six, and so on.

Now, that’s enough to get you through 95% or so of the odd note groupings you’re likely to run into, but to be truly complete, I’ll have to go into…

Odd Groupings

It gets weirder than triplets; much weirder. In fact, there’s a whole musical jungle out there filled with fantastic and strange tuplets, creatures few people have ever seen. For example, I can play groups of five, seven, nine, eleven, and so on.

Tuplets And Guitar   What You Need To Know?

You won’t run into these all that much unless you play more technical music, but it’s still good to know what they are, because hey, you never know.

Here’s the formula:

  • Odd note groupings are usuallyplayed in the same span of time as the power of two directly below it.
    • For our purposes here, powers of two = 2, 4, and 8. Remember those numbers!

Each group of five is equal to four regular sixteenth notes, or the power of two directly below five; this also means that each note will be played slightly faster than a regular sixteenth note. Typically this will be counted as “ONE-two-three-one-two ONE-two-three-one-two”, although truthfully, at any decent speed, playing odd tuplets like these becomes more about feel than actual counting.


Of course there’s always a catch, isn’t there? This one’s easy, though, don’t worry. Just forget about that power of two business I just told you about. That still applies if the music doesn’t specify otherwise, but, of course, sometimes the music specifies otherwise, in which case that rule goes out the window.

What’s important is the ratio above the grouping. The first number tells you how many notes are in the group. That’s basic. The second number is the more important one; it tells you how much time each group takes to get played, so, in order, these five-note sequences take the equivalent of 6, 7, and 8 regular eighth-notes to complete.

Even if you didn’t know exactly what it meant, you probably noticed a lot of what was going on. You probably noticed that each successive tuplet lasted just a little longer than the previous one. This is because each successive tuplet was equal to one additional eighth note.

Now you should be prepared to tackle any of that weird stuff out there. Good luck!