In Ravel's Introduction et allegro pour harpe, flûte, clarinette et quatuor à cordes, the flute and clarinet seem to start doing some very fluttery tremolo arpeggiations in the first theme - I THINK they are just doing a normal 2x tremolo, effectively doubling every note (but I might be wrong? what is mostly throwing me off is the two dots and the bow above the note heads.)

So, I was wondering about this notation, I have never seen this before - now I assume the one strike through the note is just a single tremolo line, but as I said before it's mostly the dots and the bow above the note head

If anyone could explain what is happening here I'd be very grateful!

Introduction et allegro pour harpe, flûte, clarinette et quatuor à cordes

  • This is an abbreviation for 32n notes. You can have the same with all other note lengths.. But honestly I've never encountered this kind of staccato notation. One staccato accent on each 16th value would be clear. Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 13:06
  • 1
    Does this answer your question? Four dots over tremolo minim (half note with slash)
    – ttw
    Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 22:39

2 Answers 2


They are playing 32nd notes, i.e. each note twice. The slash through the stems indicates that the note values are halved. The notation with the staccato dots and ties indicates the notes are to be lightly separated (this is sometimes called "portato" or "mezzo-staccato"). At this tempo the woodwinds will use a technique known as double-tonguing.

  • Ahhh so my ears were not fooling me in this case - makes sense that they are doubled portato notes! Thank you
    – KennyV
    Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 11:20
  • For the non-wind plays can you explain a bit how the articulation is done? The link for portato talks about string bowing. Is it tonguing? Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 12:36
  • You should add the explanation that the slash thru the notes indicates doubling from 16 to 32. Also, FWIW woodwinds can do tremolo by way of bizarre breath pulsing. I've done it and don't recommend it! I once asked a band director about interpreting tremolos in transcriptions, and he said in some cases a fast, light trill works. Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 14:55
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    @MichaelCurtis Portato would normally be played tongued, but could theoretically be done just with the breath. For this example there is no alternative to double-tonguing.
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 19:08
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    @chasly-reinstateMonica on flute (nothing in the mouth but tongue), the whisper is "tih kih" for double tonguing.
    – Pam
    Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 8:20

This is an ugly abbreviation. The partial beam indicates, that you are supposed to split each 16th note given into two 32nds (as you correctly assume), and now each is supposed to receive a dot. (See this question for a similar example.)

I am a bit lost, how to combine the staccato-dot with the arc above, which I assume to be a tie, so it may be a sort of portato.

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