Is it correct that the first note here is a 64th while the others are 32th? Or is the first note just an 8th? This mixing of writing notes with flags and with beams confuses me.

It's from Franz Liszt's 'La Campanella'. The '3' is just the finger.

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3 Answers 3


The note on the second space up is a quaver (1/8th note) and a demi-semiquaver (1/32 note). It's actually written in two parts - sort of top half of SATB, if you will. The stems' or tails' direction is important, as the note in question has stems up and down. It's like the stems up are one voice, stems down another. And it's tidier to write it out like this. The first note will be kept on until all four have been played. I guess the rest of the bar (measure) is similar.


No, tails and beams aren't additive. We've got two 'voices' here - the upper one is a full-length 8th, cobering the lower one's four 32nds.

But there's a lot of questions to be asked about this fragment! For a start, there's a triplet '3' over FOUR notes! What's that meant to mean? And then the upper-voice 8th is marked stacatissimo, which somewhat contradicts its length!

I can see (I think) what is intended. The first note is to be 'brought out' as the melody, but isn't to be prolonged. But we need more information. Is it preceded and followed by similar figures? What period? What instrument is it written for? Piano? Violin? When asking a question, try to give us a bit TOO much information, not just the bare minimum.

  • 3
    Thanks for the answer. Yes it is preceded and followed by similar figures. It's from Franz Liszt's 'La Campanella', so for piano and 19th century. The '3' is just the finger.
    – Matriz
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 12:56
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    Were that '3' to designate triplet, it would be central over three dots, and usually have a slur type mark as well. Agree about the staccatissimo mark !
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 13:45
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    @Tim: Ideally, yes. But honestly, this score looks like a score from Durand, and they never cared too much for positioning of the tuplet numbers (from their scores I've seen). Sometimes they even use the same "font" for all numbers, and they never ever use tuplet brackets. So go figure if a "3" floating in the middle of nothing is a fingering or a triplet.
    – Ramillies
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 14:04
  • 2
    The "3" is a fingering. Tuplet-numerals are printed in italics.
    – Rosie F
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 8:12
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    @Laurence: 2nd and 3rd paragraph are made obsolete by question extensions.
    – guidot
    Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 8:15

This is typical piano notation for 4 notes of 32th length where the first note is held across the whole phrase.

For string notation, the interpretation would usually place the first note on a different string so that it can ring on during the rest of the phrase.

The "3" has nothing to do with triplets, it's a fingering. Actual triplets would use an italic font for the "3" and would also involve beaming in triplet timing.

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