I'm learning Rhapsody in Blue. In the second and third measures(of the below portion) some of the chords have three dots over them. Are they staccatos? I am not sure how to play them. The only information I was able to find is that the notation is sometimes used in orchestral music.

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  • 5
    The notation in the second bar, with one slash on the stem, a triplet and three dots is shorthand for exactly what is written in full in the first bar.
    – Laurence
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 22:46
  • 4
    @LaurencePayne You should make your comment an answer. Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 23:06
  • possible duplicate of Four dots over tremolo minim (half note with slash)
    – guidot
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 7:18

2 Answers 2


As Laurence Payne's comment says, you've encountered one form of musical shorthand. There are a few layers of shorthand here so I'll break it down for you.

Stripping the first of the first measure of the second line of any shorthand markings, we have just a dotted eighth note.

Now we'll look at that slashy mark across the stem. It just means to subdivide sixteenth notes. A dotted eighth note can contain 3 sixteenth notes. So so far, we have just that: three sixteenth notes, represented by the dotted eighth with the slashed stem.

Secondly, we'll add the little 3 into consideration. Placed above our three sixteenth notes, this creates a sixteenth-note triplet. (Hopefully you are familiar with those.)

Lastly, those three dots above the eighth note indicate that the notes in our sixteenth-note triplet are staccato.

Like Laurence Payne said, it's really the exact same rhythm as the first measure of the first line, but hopefully this more detailed explanation helps you understand the notation a little bit better.

  • 1
    The three dots are not a "reminder" of anything. They are staccato dots over the three repeated 16th-notes.
    – user19146
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 3:04
  • @alephzero Ah thank you! I will edit my answer. I should have fact-checked rather than relying solely on how this stuff was explained to me.
    – Stan
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 3:09

It must be a shorthand way of writing what's in the previous bar: instead of writing all three triplets out, he's written one, with the '3' over it, saying it gets played thrice. As each chord needs to be staccato, he's put three dots over it, to signify each staccato.

  • Ah is that what it is? The 3 simply indicates subdivision (like the slash), not triplets? (I guess I know a lot less than I thought I did.)
    – Stan
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 1:24
  • 1
    @AsianSquirrel - when a note is subdivided by three, the three are triplets anyway, I think.
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 6:13

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