# What do three bars across the stem of a note mean?

I am wondering how are to be understood the following notes and how to play them on the violin.

1. There is no indication of tremolo on the score. Nevertheless, should I understand this as tremolo on the quarter and half note ? How about the 16th notes which are marked each separately with an additional bar ?

1. Below you see above a similar construction the number 3 above each of the quarter notes. Is it indicating the finger ? I know that sometimes the number 3 indicates a triplet but I dont think it is about a triplet here.

These are tremolos.

The first extract is executed entirely in 32nd notes.

The second extract is executed entirely in eighth-note triplets.

• Thanks. In the second ectract, why would be important to indicate it is about triplets, in other words will the tremolo sound different if one would omit the number 3 ?
– ivo
Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 11:44
• With the triplets, this measure will contain twelve notes, each written note being played three times. Without the triplet, the measure will contain eight notes, each written note being played twice. If the triplet marking were absent, the quarter notes would not be dotted. This bar is in common time, 4/4. If it were in 12/8, the triplet marking would be unnecessary.
– user48353
Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 11:45
• You are saying that without the triplet each not is played twice. As far as I know, when playing a tremolo you play a note as many times as it is possible within the duration of the note. Please correct me If am wrong.
– ivo
Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 12:05
• @ivo - when tremolo is marked, the number if bars near to the noteheads is usually indicative of how fast the tremolo is expected to be played.
– Tim
Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 13:02

Whether it is tremolo or not depends on the tempo. I mean how fast is the quarter notes? If the tempo is slow then you can play the 32nd notes exactly as 32nd notes. If the tempo is fast then it is tremolo.

A usual way to notate tremolo is to make the note values so fast in the relation to the tempo that it is obvious the composer wants tremolo. Thus if the tempo is slow the composer would write 64th notes in order to make sure that a tremolo is played, but if the tempo is fast the composer writes 32nd notes. Sometimes the composer writes the word "tremolo" if it is not clear from the tempo and he does want tremolo. But often it is not necessary. The composer can also indicate if he wants it exactly metered.

The triplets are supposed to be played exact, 3 notes on each quarter note, otherwise it would make no sense to write triplets. Note that the number 3 is tilted. Tilted numbers are standard for tuplets. If it was about fingering they should not be tilted.

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EDIT This edit is written a couple of days after the above answer was written:

@ivo posted a comment below and that calls for an elaboration on how to fully understand that type of notation. This is his comment:

Many thanks for your instructive answer. I still have a problem when it comes to playing the tremolo. On the first picture given the 4 notes in the second beat do you play them as tremolo (if the tempo permits) one after the other and then return and play again one after the other and so on for the duration of one quarter note, or you play each of them individually as tremolo for the duration of 1/16th each ? Thanks again.

Instead of trying to explain it with words I think an image will tell you much better how to actually interprete this kind of notation:

• I wonder why this answer was downvoted. The answer is correct and relates to what is standard and gives a detailed view that wasn't told in the other answer. Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 23:05
• I also wonder why. Your answer seems perfectly reasonable. Pedantically, in some places people use tremolo for both measured and unmeasured repetition, which is contrary to the usage in your answer, but that is merely local and not worth a downvote. I have upvoted to cancel out the strange downvote.
– user48353
Commented Apr 7, 2019 at 0:24
• I would add that voting on this site is not always easy to understand. I have written quite detailed answers sometimes, giving considerable effort to it, yet they attracted few viewers and only a couple of votes. I have also written very terse answers to simple questions, with little effort - like this one - yet they quickly attracted many votes. All we can do is shrug.
– user48353
Commented Apr 7, 2019 at 0:26
• In a solo piano piece I wrote with quarter note = 72 bpm, I wrote 64th notes, found they still sounded distinct enough at that tempo, and meant them to NOT be played as unmeasured tremolo or grace notes. In a possibly related note, I once found 64th notes in Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 2 in A Minor--a piece normally taken at quarter note = 112 bpm or faster. Since Elgar writes grace notes in his Pomp and Circumstance March No. 3 in C Minor, I believe his use of 64th notes is purposeful, and I believe he means those notes to be measured. Commented Apr 7, 2019 at 6:18
• @ivo I have answered your question by adding an image to my post above. I find that better than trying to explain it in a comment. Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 22:06