It’s common knowledge that both music & musical notation have their basis in mathematics.
Each note within the system is assigned a specific time value and each relates to the others in a logical, mathematical way.
· One 1/16 note is equal to the value of two 1/32 notes
· One 1/8 note equals two 1/16 notes
· One 1/4 note equals two 1/8 notes……and so-on.
All very consistent, right? At first glance, it would seem so. Until you examine the way in which we deal with triplets.
For those of you not familiar with the concept of triplets, I’ll explain.
Essentially, triplets occur when 3 evenly spaced notes are played within a musical space designed to accommodate 2 notes.
· In 4/4 time a 1/4 note occupies the space of 1-full-count, which equates to 1/4 of the total measure.
· As was indicated previously, one 1/4 note = two 1/8 notes
· But if 3 evenly spaced notes are played in place of those two 1/8 notes, the result is a “triplet”.
The way in which triplets are played doesn’t pose a problem for me. It’s our traditional notation of them that I question.
In my mind, the problem is simple. When the actual time value assigned to a note changes, so should the numeric value of the symbol (note) used to represent it.
But, that’s not the case with triplets!
When a 3-note-triplet is played in place of two 1/8 notes, the resulting triplet is shown by inserting three 1/8 notes in place of the original two.
So…to quickly summarize, two 1/8 notes = one 1/4 note…except in the case of a triplet??????
Who in the world thought that was a good idea?
It’s every bit as consistent as saying that two 1/8 notes = one 1/4 note, except on Tuesdays…when the moon is full.
Wouldn’t it have been better to create a 12th note? If three 12th notes had been used to fill the space of a 1/4 note, that would have been mathematically consistent.
So why wasn’t it set up that way?
In recent years, I’ve constructed several video tutorials on shuffle rhythms. “Shuffles” happen to be built upon the same framework as triplets. That’s what got me thinking about this debacle.
Honestly, I haven’t a clue about why it was set-up this way. But, if we ever hope to inspire a change to the current system, I guess we need a viable alternative. As luck would have it, I have an idea or two.
· As a drummer, I’m aware that 8th note triplets aren’t the only type in use. Double-time triplets (16th note triplets) are also common. Given that, we’d need a 24th note to use in conjunction with our 12th note. Simple enough!
- So, how would we write our new notes? Our current system shows triplets in several ways. Generally, the number “3” is combined with either a half-moon shaped arch, or a straight-line bracket shown above, or below the staff. Well…we wouldn’t need that number “3” anymore, but it might be useful to hang onto one of the familiar remnants from our current system. So, what if we incorporated that traditional half-moon arch?
Could that work?
· It’s no more difficult
· Players wouldn’t need to look above & below the staff to identify a triplet
· It would re-establish mathematical consistency within the system
So, what’s your opinion? Is it worth changing?
After all, I’m just one guy with some impromptu thoughts on the subject?
Does it make sense, or have I neglected to consider some major obstacles in my quest to reinvent the wheel?
What’s your take on this & is it worthy of further consideration?
As always, comments are welcome!