Beat theory: Tuplets, Part 1

Inspired by Adam Neely’s recent video on tuplets, I wanted to give some practical tips on how to make beats using tuplets.

What are tuplets?

Tuplets are irregular subdivisions of beats.
If that sounds like gibberish, I’ll explain…

Imagine that a bar of music is an apple.


Generally, it’s much easier to slice your apple into halves or quarters. Rarely do people cut up their apple into five equal pieces, or seven equal pieces. That seems like an irregular subdivision of your apple.

Similarly, in music, when we slice up beats or bars in irregular ways, we create “tuplets”.
There are different kinds of tuplets with specific (but simple names). Let’s cover some basics here.


Some very common tuplets

The most common kind of tuplet is the ‘triplet’.
When we play 3 notes in the time of 2, we call that a triplet.

A ‘quintuplet’ (quint, from latin ‘quintus’ meaning ‘the fifth) is when we play 5 notes in the time we usually play 4 notes.


A ‘septuplet’ (sept from latin ‘septem’ meaning ‘seven) is when we play 7 notes in the time we usually take to play 8 notes.


How to make tuplets in Ableton Live

In Ableton, making a tuplet is as simple as drawing the number of notes we want and then stretching them to the time we want.

Want 5 notes played in the time of 4? Draw 5 notes, select them and stretch them to fit 4 normal subdivisions of your bar.

You can select and stretch your midi notes by highlighting them in the grey bar above the piano roll (officially called the ‘MIDI Editor Stretch Area’). Then pull on the right “MIDI Stretch Marker” that appears to fill the space

Let me show you.

Here I want to make 5 notes, but in the space of 4. i.e. a quintuplet.

 making quintuplets in ableton live

I draw five notes. Compress it to four. Done.


Here I want 7 notes played in the time of 8.

making septuplets in ableton live

And finally, here I want 3 notes played in the time of 2. This is the ever cute and cuddly triplet. We can also draw these by changing the grid in ableton to the triplet grid.

 making triplets in ableton live

I could have also stretched 7 notes into 6, or 5 notes into 8. The crazy options are limitless.
But the crazy options sometimes sound like 💩 if not used creatively.

Using Tuplets CREATIVELY

I often hear people go all experimental with tuplets and randomly throw them in their beats. It might feel all clever, but more times than not this sounds jarring and can be to the detriment of the beat.

Being clever vs actually communicating effectively through music can be worlds apart.

So for our purposes of chill easy going beat making, I’ll be making a video next week on how to use tuplets creatively.

Once it’s out, I'll link it here.
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P.S. I’ve opened up a few slots for one-on-one music coaching in ableton. If you want to book a slot, see my schedule here!

lil miss beats!



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