I know that single numbers above notes on a score usually mean fingering. But in the case i am talking about (violin), there is a sequence of different single notes with the number 3 above each note. I am wondering if it refers to the 3d finger ?

Many thanks.

  • 3
    Hard to say without seeing the music in question. Can you add a scan? Seeing as it's violin, it could be fingering, instructing you to use the same finger for all the notes in question but change position and/or string. Apr 29 '17 at 9:52

It's my guess that the 3 is written in italics (fingering instructions are usually upright) and over a group of 3 note units that are joined with a beam or slur or bracket.

That would be a triplet, 3 notes played in the time usually taken for 2 notes.

  • 1
    It doesn't make sense for a number indicating a triplet to be written over every note in a sequence of notes. We need to see the score. And the internet being what it is (i.e. used by lots of people who don't really know what they are doing) there is no guarantee that the score is written "correctly", of course!
    – user19146
    Apr 29 '17 at 14:17
  • A '3' might be written above a single note to express triplet rhythm if the note also has a tremolo bar through its stem. But that's pure speculation. Apr 30 '17 at 11:19

As a violnist, this sounds weird, like a printing error. As stated, it would mean "use your third finger for all three notes" but no composer in his/her right mind would put that in. So best guess is composer did not know how to designate intended triplet ... how many beats are in the measure? Is there an extra beat of the length of one of those D's? If so, then it would have to be a triplet with out the correct way of designating it.


If the song in question is of Irish origin, this "3" may be indicating the treble (bow stutter) characteristic of Ireland's folk music. However, I believe there is a more accurate way to annotate this.

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