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This question already has an answer here:

I have no idea what the "3" next to a quarter note means, thanks.enter image description here

marked as duplicate by Shevliaskovic, Community Jul 24 '17 at 9:44

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  • It's shabbily written. The bar under that then seems to be 9/8. Has the time sig. changed? – Tim Jul 24 '17 at 9:08
  • Yes, it changes to 9/8. – Ivystorm Jul 24 '17 at 9:50
  • Whilst it happens to be a dupe, the dots are so badly written, it may be useful to leave it in as an example... – Tim Jul 24 '17 at 10:12
  • It's pretty well written for a hand copied part, compared with some I've seen! There is too much random variation in the individual symbols for it to have been engraved, either before or after computer engraving. – user19146 Jul 24 '17 at 10:54
  • @alephzero - fair enough, I was thinking of the lines that should encompass the triplets. They're just not good - probably the easiest bit to do when hand writing. – Tim Jul 24 '17 at 13:56
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This is a triplet marker.

If you tally up the note lengths in this bar, you'll see that they don't add up to 4/4. The crotchet and quaver between which the "3" is printed are supposed to be shorter than usual so that 3 rather than 2 notes to a crotchet are played. This makes the rhythm add up again. (The same goes for the last quaver in the bar.)

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