I'm working on National Emblem by E. E. Bagley. In the second strain, there is a minim with the tremolo mark. Above it are four dots. What do they mean?

Here is a picture. The mark in question is found in the third measure of the second line. It is also found throughout other parts of the piece. enter image description here

  • Do you want red freehand circles too? :D
    – Luke_0
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 17:01
  • Surely it would be just as easy to write out the four staccato quavers - then everyone would get it exactly right?
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 7:16

4 Answers 4


It is not actually a tremolo. The thick line represents an eighth-note beam, and is shorthand for four eighth notes. And yes, the four dots -- one for each eighth-note -- indicate staccato.

In drum music, a roll is frequently indicated by two thick beams over a long note. This is exactly the same notation as sixteenth notes. How do you know whether to play exact sixteenth notes instead of a roll? Sometimes the composer will write out all the sixteenth notes, and sometimes he or she will instead write the staccato dots, one for each intended sixteenth note.

  • 1
    Yes, it is a tremolo. "One-Note Tremolo" is in fact the technical term for this type of notation, the slash through the stem of the notehead. (it may also go by other names.) That is how this symbol is referred to in the Sibelius and Finale music notation programs, and in texts on music engraving.
    – user1044
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 13:43
  • 1
    There is another kind of notation for a "two-note tremolo" which is an alternation back and forth between two notes or two chords. In that kind of notation, the slash strokes are positioned between the stems of two adjacent notes or chords.
    – user1044
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 13:44

I believe it is an indication that the (four) notes of the tremolo should be played staccato.
In your example this would mean that you should start that bar with four "staccatoed" eighth notes (of A) instead of a half note "tremoloed" in some other way (such as legato or with alternate fingerings).
When I have encountered this notation style - typically in trumpet parts - there has been no tremolo mark and the tremolo, or division of the underlying note into fractions, was infered by the dots. It then constitutes a sort of shorthand in place of writing out all the notes (and as such not nessecarily to be performed as staccato; I've played tuba parts with whole notes decorated with four dots above them that I was instructed to play as four regular quarter notes).

My experience with dots like that is mainly from old sheet music for Scandinavian marches. There might be cultural differences, but I guess that staccato is what it means also in your music


NO! NO! NO! NO! IT IS NOTTTTT!!! a roll. The dots indicate a four note subdivision in the time of the note they are over: a half note with a single slash indicates play eighth notes (four of them). A quarter note with a double slash and four dots means to play sixteenth notes.


Here's another example of 4 dots over a half note with a slash from Chopin's Prelude No. 15:

Image from wikipedia

The same bars from IMPSL:

enter image description here

And here's the more commonly used notation:

common notation


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prelude,_Op._28,_No._15_%28Chopin%29#/media/File:Full_page,_Chopin_Prelude_15.png
  2. https://imslp.org/wiki/Special:ReverseLookup/85374
  3. https://imslp.org/wiki/Special:ReverseLookup/63317

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