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From the below image, What does the 3 above the three quarter notes represent? I attempted to look it up here but I did not find anything similar to it.

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I am assuming it makes the 3 notes shorter, due to the fact that if you add together the three ♪, the 8th rest, and the three ♩ you get a total of 1¼. But I would like a detailed explanation of what I should be doing when I play it.

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Here is a related question about triplets for you: music.stackexchange.com/questions/5801/… –  Ulf Åkerstedt Sep 21 '12 at 10:41
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1 Answer

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The 3 indicates a triplet. The quarter notes should be played at 2/3rds their normal duration. You end up with the three quarter notes taking up the last 2 beats of the measure, divided equally.

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A tip that was useful to me as to how to play it when you don't know how a triplet over several beats sounds or feel : play 3 "eight" notes for both quarter note, making it 6 1/8 over 2 1/4. Then only play the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of that group : that is where the attacks of the triplet will fall. A bit like adding fractions with different denominators, really. –  Pif Sep 21 '12 at 9:08
    
@Pif, actually that is EXACTLY what I did last night trying to figure it out on my own. –  Scott Chamberlain Sep 21 '12 at 13:43
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That's because it's the right way to do it (^_^). As an example, here's someone taking this approach too far vai.com/tempo-mental (O_o) –  Pif Sep 21 '12 at 14:52
    
The way I learned the timing was from "Carol of the Bells"; the rhythm is a transposition of a triplet pattern over a tuplet pattern. BTW, in triplet times like 6/8, you can see the reverse; a "2" and bracket will be placed over two notes, indicating a "tuplet"; those two notes should be played in the space of three of the same note value in the natural time. –  KeithS Sep 25 '12 at 22:39
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As for quintuplets and septuplets, etc, they are seen, especially in solo pieces and etudes. In those situations, the advice I got from a working professional violinist was, don't try to count or subdivide it; just cram all the notes into the space you're given and chalk up any variance as artistic expression :) –  KeithS Sep 25 '12 at 22:44
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