Flute - BCD Triplets

Flute - BCD Triplets

Hello :D Flute players.

Can someone explain the BCD triplet to me in how its inserted into a tune? The theory I have is that if you see a B to a D you can insert the triplet. But how?

Here is what I am hearing…. few notes, get to the B, play it then cut it, c nat, D then carry on…

Is that close? Some explanation would be lovely …. I second guess my ears!

Posted .

Re: Flute - BCD Triplets

Yes, on a B to D transition you can play


C (natural or sharp, it goes by very quickly, often doesn’t matter much which, C# can be easier)


Articulate the B, slur the C and D.

So (in ABC):

G2 (Bd)


G2 (3Bcd)


G2 (3B^cd)

That essentially it for a keyless wooden flute. I’d do the same on my keyed wooden flute.

Boehm players can enable special key sequence BCMQ/L and just play a C, the flute will auto-BCD triplet when the fire button is depressed.

Re: Flute - BCD Triplets

Thank you!! I am hearing the B played twice in some way. I hope that is correct? 🙂 This might be a little above my comprehension but the song I am learning has BCD triplets and I thought I would try them out.


Posted .

Re: Flute - BCD Triplets

Your ear can be your guide, but it may be useful to know that although it is often notated as a triplet:

G2 (3Bcd), etc.

it really isn’t. It’s

G2 B/c/d

The only problem with the usual way of notating it is that if you ever use EasyABC or a similar program to play a tune, you hear triplets and they don’t sound right.

Posted by .

Re: Flute - BCD Triplets

OP mentioned a cut on B. It is possible, but isn’t necessary to cut the note.

If B is heard twice, it can be a bounce on B followed by BCd triplet.

Possible fingerings for the BCd triplet on SS flute
1) xooooo -> oxxooo -> oxxxxx
2) xooooo -> oxoooo -> oxxxxx
3) xooooo -> oooooo -> oxxxxx
4) xooooo -> oooxxx -> oxxxxx
5) xooooo -> oxoxxx -> oxxxxx

The choice depends on should the middle note in a triplet be closer to Cnat or C, be the triplet punchy or smooth and also the ease for the fingers.

IMO, the triplets come into playing naturally, much like every other ornament/articulation. It’s no point to do it unless you feel it.

Also, BCd triplet is easier on SS flute than a clean B->d transition, which is a trap for lazy fingers. The triplet better be used in a controlled way.

Posted by .

Re: Flute - BCD Triplets

"I am hearing the B played twice in some way. "

Not sure what you mean unless the B actually is repeated in the tune you’re listening to, i.e. B B d (without the triplet)

The Bcd triplet is just those three notes with a C or C#

Can you point us to a specific example on YouTube?

Re: Flute - BCD Triplets

I think Breathneach was of the opinion that in a passing triplet C is generally sharp (but natural on a note of emphasis in traditional modes).

I guess it’s possible to cut the B for added emphasis but I don’t think I’ve heard it done much.

Re: Flute - BCD Triplets

On flute, as on the uilleann pipes, there are many places to insert Bcd or Bc#d triplets, and many ways to play them.

They’re not just inserted when a tune goes B>d, also they’re often used as a flute equivalent, one could say, for the fiddle etc rolling on d ("middle D") thus when other players might play ddd or dc#d the flute/whistle/pipes often play dBc#d.

Many flute and whistle players always play Bcd triplets "open" with a c# regardless of the key signature of the tune. The "staccato" or "tight" Bcd triplet on the uilleann pipes contains a c# as well.

Matt Molloy does a very distinctive Bcd triplet which has a rippling effect similar to the uilleann pipes’ Bc#d "tight" triplet, however he accomplishes it by playing c natural and inserting a lower gracenote very similar to the "crossing notes" which bedevil beginners, though Molloy’s is obviously intentional:

xoo ooo B
xxx ooo G gracenote
oxx ooo c natural
oxx xxx d

Re: Flute - BCD Triplets

A useful fingering sequence for the Bcd triplet is

xoo xxx
oxo xxx
oxx xxx

It seems (and is) awkward at first, but it can be played very quickly and in tunes like Colonel Frazer and the like it can be a useful approach.

Posted by .

Re: Flute - BCD Triplets

@Calum – See #5 in Mars’ list above.

I was taught this fingering in a whistle class with Michael Falsey at the Willie Clancy Week. Michael is a piper and referred to it as a ‘piping technique’, based on closed fingering for the pipes. Whilst it may not be pitch-perfect (the B is likely to be fractionally flat and the C a little sharp on most whistles – I cannot speak for flutes, but presumably they can be more easily ‘blown into tune’), the notes fly by too quickly for it to matter - and it gives a nice ‘poppy’ triplet.

Re: Flute - BCD Triplets

I find the B-C-D more "poppity" than the B-C#-D. So I endorse what @Calum and @CreadurMawnOrganig suggest. OXO XXX is my usual c and c’ fingering, anyway.

I’ve noticed that fiddlers usually notate B-C#-D in this situation, but I don’t know why they do that. Maybe they do indeed use the C# fingering for convenience or else "it-don’t-matter".

Re: Flute - BCD Triplets

Especially when the tune is being played by others
dc#d, or
I will often leave the bottom-hand fingers down throughout:

oxx xxx (d)
xoo xxx (B)
ooo xxx (c#)
oxx xxx (d)

which saves you from much useless finger-flopping in passages like

| (3Bc#d gd (3Bc#d gd | (3Bc#d gd BG ~G2 |

Re: Flute - BCD Triplets

"I’ve noticed that fiddlers usually notate B-C#-D in this situation, but I don’t know why they do that."

As someone that is primarily a string player (fiddle and mandolin), I don’t have a definitive answer to that. My feeling, however, is that using C#, especially where there is no C# in the key signature, adds a certain tension, ‘pulling’ the triplet towards its top note. The ‘poppity’ effect is not so easily achievable on the fiddle using fingering alone (something like it can be achieved using a separate bow for each note), so the melodic qualities of the triplet are perhaps of greater importance. But I don’t want to enter into a strings vs. wind battle…