Logic Score Editor Tutorial: Tuplets Made Easy!

Peter Schwartz, the Logic and MIDI Guru has returned with another exclusive tutorial for The MPV Hub. Learn how to get the most out of the N-Tuplet symbol in Logic's Score Editor.  

The term tuplets refers to a group of notes written to be played faster or slower than usual within a particular rhythmic value or beat. Duplets, quintuplets, and septuplets — to name just three — all fall under this definition, with triplets being the most commonly encountered type of tuplet. And Logic's Score Editor is quite good at recognizing and notating triplets (three notes in the time of two) from played-in, unquantized parts, even when they're amidst notes of "straight" rhythmic values:

Figure 1: An unquantized recording of eighth-note triplets in the right hand against eighths in the left

Figure 1: An unquantized recording of eighth-note triplets in the right hand against eighths in the left.

And when it comes to step-entering notes, Logic's part box provides triplet note values which make entry of triplets quite easy:

Figure 2: Dragging an eighth triplet note from a floating part box palette onto the staff

Figure 2: Dragging an eighth triplet note from a floating part box palette onto the staff.

To display any other kind of tuplet, however, we need to use the N-Tuplet symbol, located in the part box as well as the floating note entry palette. This symbol has three main uses:

  • Non-Realtime Entry of Notes On-Screen: for entering tuplets of various denominations directly on the staff in the score editor.
  • Correcting the Notation Display of Realtime, Unquantized Performances: to force Logic to display the correct notation of non-triplet tuplets when preparing a score from live-played, unquantized parts.
  • Overriding the Display Quantize Value: a neat trick for notating parts with faster rhythmic values that normally wouldn't be displayed because of the limit set by the current Display Quantize value.

Now, did that last usage make you go, "huh?!?" If so, don't worry. I'll explain what that's all about very shortly. First, let's get familiar with some basics...

The N-Tuplet Symbol

N-Tuplet Symbol

N-Tuplet Symbol.

The N-Tuplet symbol is entered into the Score by dragging it onto the staff from the partbox, or by selecting it first and then entering it into the score using the pencil tool. Here, the "n" in the symbol simply represents that you're going to use it to fit a variable number of notes within a particular rhythmic value, and of course you can freely determine how many notes that needs to be for any given phrase. A key aspect to be aware of when using the N-tuplet symbol: it only works if it's entered at the position of an existing note. Let's see how this all works, starting with an example of on-screen composition:

Non-Realtime Note Entry: Entering a Quintuplet

Below we see a D which I entered on the downbeat of measure 2. This is going be our "seed note" for the start of an eighth-note quintuplet. Put another way, this note represents the first in a series of 5 eighth notes that will play in the time of 4 eighths. To get the process started, I've dragged the N-Tuplet symbol over that D:

Figure 3: dragging the N-Tuplet symbol over an existing note to begin tuplet entry

Figure 3: dragging the N-Tuplet symbol over an existing note to begin tuplet entry.

When I release the mouse, a tuplet dialog box appears. Below you can see that I've set it up to display 5 eighth notes in the time of 4.

Figure 4: the tuplet dialog box

Figure 4: the tuplet dialog box.

After clicking OK, the score display shows us a series of four "placeholder" rests after the D:

Figure 5: placeholder rests

Figure 5: placeholder rests.

All we have to do now is enter notes from the partbox into the four additional notes that will make up the quintuplet. The method is simple enough:

  1. Start by selecting a note symbol in the partbox which has a smaller rhythmic value than the placeholder rests. In this case, selecting a sixteenth note from the partbox would be a good choice. 
  2. Starting with the first rest, and working in sequence, drag a sixteenth note from the partbox to each of the placeholder rests. You can also use the pencil tool to enter the notes. 

Figure 6: completed entry of notes in the quintuplet

Figure 6: completed entry of notes in the quintuplet.

Entering Multiple Tuplets

You'll be happy to know that if the music you're writing requires multiple groups of quintuplets, there's no need to enter a starting note and repeat the whole tuplet-entry process. Tuplets, once established, can be copied and pasted just like other notes.

In the example below, I selected the quintuplet I completed in Figure 6 and Option-dragged it to beat 3 of the same measure. Then I altered the notes of the copy by dragging them to the desired pitches, and finished the measure by entering the bass notes.

Figure 7: the first quintuplet copied to beat 3, then altered

Figure 7: the first quintuplet copied to beat 3, then altered.

Correcting the Display of a Real-Time Performance

Below we see a realtime, unquantized performance in which I played in quintuplets against quarter notes in the bass. As you can see, Logic's interpretation of my quintuplets is... wrong! But that's not surprising. As previously mentioned, Logic needs help displaying tuplets other than triplets:

Figure 8: realtime performance of quintuplets, before correction

Figure 8: realtime performance of quintuplets, before correction.

To correct the display I dragged the N-Tuplet symbol onto the first note the first group of 5, and set up the tuplet dialog box to display 5 eighths in the time of 4 (as in Figure 4 above). I then repeated the process on the first note of the second group of 5. Voilà!

Figure 9: the corrected display

Figure 9: the corrected display.


Note that correcting the display of tuplets using the above method will not alter the timing of the original performance. When the N-Tuplet symbol is used to correct notation, the changes you see in the score will be visual only; cosmetic changes, if you will. By contrast, when using the N-Tuplet symbol for actual note entry in the score, the timing of the notes you enter will be equally spaced apart (e.g., quantized).

Overriding the Display Quantize Function

The last usage for the N-Tuplet tool is to override the limitations imposed by the Display Quantize parameter (labeled as "Quantize" in the parameters section of the Score Editor's Inspector).

The piece shown below has a Display Quantize setting of 8, meaning that the fastest rhythmic value that can be displayed is an eighth note. However, the flourish at the end of the second measure is notated as 32nd notes. Normally, a setting of 8 wouldn't accommodate the display of rhythmic values smaller than an eighth-note. Of course, we could change the value to 32 but in doing so we'd run the risk of messing up the rest of the notation. Instead, I'll use the N-Tuplet tool to enter a series of thirty-second notes, thus overriding the Display Quantize value! Here's how it works:

Starting with a seed note of F2 on the fourth beat of the second measure, I entered the N-Tuplet symbol over it and configured it in an unusual way: 8 thirty-second notes to be displayed in the time of... 8 thirty-second notes. That's the trick! And by ticking the Hide Bracket and Hide Numbers checkboxes, the part—as printed—will not display the otherwise unwanted tuplet brackets and numbers.

Figure 10: thirty-second notes appearing in a score with a Display Quantize setting of

Figure 10: thirty-second notes appearing in a score with a Display Quantize setting of "8".

There's a whole lot to learn about Logic, and you can find out more with these Logic Video Tutorials and do check out Peter's MIDI 101: MIDI Demystified tutorial for an entertaining and educational unveiling of MIDI, what it is and how to use it better.

Peter Schwartz, composer, orchestrator, arranger, pianist, synthesist, and musical director, began piano studies at age 5 and went on to earn a degree in piano performance from Manhattan School of Music. It wasn't long afterward that he began working as a product specialist for New England Digital (Synclavier) and also as a sound progr... Read More


Brent T

I've used Finale and Sibelius in the past so I'm wondering if it is possible in Logic Pro 9 to enter note values on a numeric computer keyboard while entering the note pitch on a midi keyboard? Or is the fastest entry method to click on the note value with a mouse and then enter the pitch with a midi keyboard?

I've searched all over for information on this, but keep running into a wall.

Thanks for any help.

Yes. You can do this, I don't have a numeric keyboard(Mac Book) but I use the number keys at the top of the computer keyboard 1-0 You may have to set up your keyboard shortcuts in Logic. I don't remember if they are the default or not. Anyway type the number(duration) play the pitch on the controller. Done works great.
Hi Brent,

Just to add to what uncle808us said above, you can assign key commands to each of the main note values (type 'note' in search to find them quickly). To make step entry with USB music keyboard (or Musical Typing keyboard in Logic Pro X) a breeze, I use the numeric keyboard and have assigned numbers like this:
1 - whole note (1/1 note in key commands window)
2 - half note
4 - quarter note
8 - eight note
6 - sixteenth
3 - thirty-second

If you've already played the part in, it's probably faster to tweak the notation in the Score Editor, or create a score-only part (see P. Schwartz's fantastic course, which cam out today!).
Having said that, step entry using music keyboard (or caps lock keyb. in Logic 9) and key commands to assign note values is certainly a viable option.

Hope this helps.
In my opinion tuplets can be a nightmare in logic. I have hard quantised the trumpet solo in Penny lane. This uses triplets throughout and some of them should be displayed rest 16 16 8 ie a quaver rest, 2 semiquavers, quaver. In reality this is 1/12 rest 1/24, 1/24, 1/12. I have tried every display quantise and cannot make it look correct. Yes I could re-write the arrangement in 12/8. But I shouldn't have to. If anyone knows a way to do it, please let me know.

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