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I haven't the faintest idea of what these could mean. Some sort of run perhaps? How do you effect the dynamics/notes these bars are referring to?

First occurrence, 2 bars Second occurrence, 3 bars

EDIT: For reference, this specific example is from Offenbach's Galop infernal, but I've seen it in other pieces I've played and never quite knew what to make of it.

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

It's a tremolo. There are two types of tremolos. One between two different notes like in your example above and a second with the bars going though the stem of the note.

In your case, it is like a trill where you go back and forth pattern them in that patter at at a speed related to the bars connecting the two notes. So the two bars in the first measure would equate to 16th note speed and the three bars in the second measure would equate to 32nd note speed. The idea is that when the tremolo is finished you have played both notes the duration notated, but alternated at a certaint speed based on the number of bars. Here is the link I used to confirm the notation:

I would listen to a few examples so you get a good idea of what they are before you dive right into them. Hope this helps.

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"as fast as you can" is not always correct -- the speed of the tremolo can be made quite specific based on the number of beams. – NReilingh Nov 22 '13 at 21:16
As far a I am aware, the number of slashes refers to the equivalent slashes if it were to be a note. E.g. 2 slashes - a semiquaver tremolo. – Tim Hargreaves Nov 23 '13 at 18:32

This is tremolo notation. The beams indicate the speed of the tremolo.

In the first bar, you should alternate between the D-F# chord and the A in 16th notes.

In the second bar, you should alternate between the two sets of notes in 32nd notes technically, or "as fast as possible" if 32nds are infeasible.

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You could in fact write out each of the individual 16th or 32nd notes, but the tremolo notation is a "shorthand" method that takes up far less space and is easier to read. – user1044 Nov 22 '13 at 21:25
I'm wondering if it means play the D/F# tremolo for 2 beats, then the A trem. for the other 2 beats, rather than the suggestion that you alternate the notes. – Tim Nov 23 '13 at 9:42
If I'm wrong, why wouldn't a trill be in order instead ? – Tim Nov 23 '13 at 9:50
@Tim - the way the tremolo is notated indicates alternation between the chord and the single note. If the composer wanted something different, they would need to re-write! Also, trills are typically used for alteration between notes a major/minor seconds away. You can definitely use them for larger intervals, but it can become ambiguous. Tremolos indicate exactly what the composer wants. – jjmusicnotes Nov 23 '13 at 14:02

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