A triplet is really just a group of three notes that are played within what would normally be a 2-note pattern. For example, a quarter note triplet would be 3 quarter notes played within 2 regular quarter notes (which is 2 beats or one half-note in 4/4 time).
To make triplets in Garageband iOS, put 3 notes on the piano roll in a time division where there would normally only be two. A quarter-note triplet would be 3 quarter-notes within the time division of 2 quarter-notes, and an eighth-note triplet would be 3 eighth-notes within a time division of 2.
How to Make Triplets in Garageband iOS
1) Open the piano roll by clicking “Edit” on the track region
You have to double-click on the track region in order to bring up the selection menu. Once the screen has popped up, click “Edit.” This is how you get into the iOS Garageband piano roll.
2) Slide the Lock/Pen icon to the right
Sliding the pen icon over to the right will allow you to add and delete notes a lot easier. However, if you want to move and stretch notes, I find it’s easier to do so when the lock button is turned on, rather than off.
3) Zoom in on the Piano Roll until you can see the beat/measure number on the Time Ruler
You can actually already see the beat/measure number on the Time Ruler in the image prior to this one, however, I find it’s better to zoom closer so you can see exactly what you’re doing. This is especially good if you’re making sixteenth-note or thirty-second note triplets.
4) Draw 2 notes in the Piano Roll of the desired time value
Draw in two notes of the desired time value. So if we’re making an 1/8th note triplet, we’ll draw in two 1/8th notes to start. One beat in a 4/4 time signature is a 1/4 note.
This means that half a beat in 4/4 time is an 1/8th note because half of 1/4 is 1/8th. We’ll talk more about the beat/measure ruler indicator in a second because it’s helpful for this.
5) Draw a 3rd Note within the same time value and make sure the notes are equal in length
Once you know what it looks like to have two 1/8th notes in the piano roll, you now have to shorten the notes a bit in order to make room for a third one in the very same space. Do your best to make sure the notes are all fairly equal in length. It’s unlikely you’ll get it perfectly, but what matters is that you get close.
More on Triplets, Garageband’s Piano Roll & Time Divisions
Now that I’ve shown you how to make an 1/8th note triplet in Garageband iOS, let’s talk a little bit more time divisions, triplets, as well as the piano roll. Like I said before, I prefer using Garageband macOS for a number of reasons because the score editor – which I have a guide on by the way – makes it simpler.
It’s one of the many reasons I listed in my iOS versus macOS Garageband article for why I prefer using macOS. Moreover, I find that because you don’t have to click on the screen with your finger, you can be a lot more precise in your editing decisions, but I digress. Let’s talk about what a triplet is.
A triplet is when you take 3 notes of a certain time value and you play them within what would normally be the space for 2 notes of that same time value.
For example, an eighth note triplet is a group of 3 eighth notes that are played within a time value that would normally be for only 2 eighth notes. The image down here illustrates what I’m talking about.
And the same pattern continues for the different time values of notes, including sixteenth notes, thirty-second notes, sixty-fourth notes, and so on.
Also, the notes in the triplet bracket are all played with an equal amount of time devoted to each one. This means that you wouldn’t play the first 2 notes of the triplet super fast and then the last one slower. No, they have to be given equal weight.
I’ve already shown you how to do this, but what we’ll do now is go through a more thorough guide so you know how I did it and how I knew I was doing it right.
It just takes a bit of mathematics and fractions to figure it out, although, you probably need to understand how to use the piano roll as well (my guide on the piano roll).
Also, we’re going to use the macOS piano roll to explain triplets and time divisions. That’s why these images don’t look like what I would see on my iPhone X 64GB.
1/8th Notes in the Piano Roll
In 4/4 time, two eighth notes make up one-quarter note, which occupies the space of 1 beat. In essence, I would turn on the metronome and count the number of beats there are relative to the grid lines. I did this to confirm that the following information is true.
In the Garageband piano roll, one whole measure is indicated by a change to a whole number, ie, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and not the numbers with decimal places, ie, 1.2., 1.3.
1.2 is actually the second beat of the first measure. 1.3 is the third beat of the first measure, and 1.4 is the fourth beat of the first measure. And then it starts over again except from the second measure which would be number 2, ie, 2.1, 2.2. 2.3 and so on.
1/8th Note Triplet in the Piano Roll
So we need three eighth notes in the space between 1 and 1.2, and that’s what we have in the macOS piano roll shown above. As I said earlier, you just want to add another eighth note in the place where there would normally be just 2 notes. And if you were making a sixteenth note triplet, the same rule would apply.
Comparing an Eighth Note Triplet to A Pair of Eighth Notes in the Piano Roll
One thing to note is that the iOS Garageband piano roll functions in the same way as macOS. The beats and measures are indicated with the same numerical system, ie, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4. Also, notice how the eighth note triplet is occupying the same space as the two eighth notes.
That’s the whole point of a triplet as I said earlier. It’s playing three notes where there would normally only be two. The same principle applies to other time divisions as well. You just have to figure out what grid-line signifies what time division. Let’s look at 1/16th note triplets now.
Making A 1/16 Note Triplet in Garageband iOS
Having an understanding of basic fractions is really going to help you here. If two 1/8th notes in Garageband’s piano roll look like two notes in equal size between one whole beat, that would mean that a 1/16 note would be half of that.
That’s going to look like what you can see in the image down below this paragraph. If we wanted to make a 1/16 note triplet, we would just have to make 3 sixteenth notes within the space or time division where there would normally only be 2, just like with the 1/8 triplets.
Above, we have 4 sixteenth notes that are occupying the space of one whole beat that was previously occupied by two 1/8th notes. So, we’ll chop off the last two notes so we’re halfway between beats 1 and 2, and then we’ll add the third sixteenth note so we get the triplet.
And then the final product looks like what you can see down here:
The same idea continues with how you would make 1/32 note triplets and also 1/64 triplets. You just want to put three notes where there would normally be only two of the same value.
Good luck making hyper-specific changes like that in the Piano Roll. Unless you’re using an iPad like the one I have, something tells me it’ll be a bit of a nuisance.
Important Things to Note About Making Triplets in Garageband iOS
1) It’s A Lot Easier in macOS Garageband
If you’ve read any number of the articles on my site, you may have come across certain sections where I’ve said that I’m not a big fan of iOS Garageband. I still feel that way, just because a lot of these hyper-specific functions are a lot easier on the desktop/laptop version than on iOS.
That said, some people really swear by the iOS version. I just need to use an iPad instead of the iPhone version for reasons I’ve discussed before.
2) Use the Time Quantizer to Help You
You can also use the Time Quantizer in iOS Garageband after you’ve created your triplets to see how, or if, it affects it all. I don’t have a guide on the iOS Time Quantizer yet, but I have one here for macOS.
1) iPhone X 64GB
2) 2021 iPad Pro 11” 1TB