I have been playing the piano for 8 years and today I was reading the Katchaturian Toccata and I discovered a symbol, which can be seen below. I am mystified and searched for “Music symbols” but didn’t discover my symbol on Wikipedia, neither on YouTube nor anywhere else. In search for the symbol I came across this post on the site What does a straight line followed by a sharp point mean in a piano score when under notes?, but it did not list it. I searched for an hour without result, so here I am writing this question.

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2 Answers 2


It is sixteenth notes played the same way as the first part of bar 118 in the left hand where it is written out. It will be a total of eight sixteenth notes because the symbol is written betweeen half notes, so the half notes indicates the total duration of the figure. Note that the symbol is two beams which is how you can see that it is sixteenth notes.

In the first part of bar 118 the figure is the duration of a quarter note for the first beat then a new figure on the second beat as opposed to the rest of the bar where there is the same figure for the duration of two beats.


Here is a page with definitions of this kind of abbreviations in music: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbreviation_(music)

Here is an image from that page:

Alternation of two notes

Here you can see an edition of Khachaturian's Toccata which clearly shows how to play it: Source: https://kupdf.net/download/aram-khachaturian-toccata-for-piano-pdfpdf_59683afedc0d60a159a88e76_pdf

And here is an image from that page with the relevant bars:

Section from Khachaturian's Toccata


Tremolo. The notes before the lines are alternated as quickly as possible, for the two beats shown.

EDIT: it seems that the three notes will alternate with the second minim, although that isn't easy given the stretch between highest and lowest notes.

  • 6
    It is NOT supposed to be played as fast as possible. It is sixteenth notes. Compare with the first part of bar 118 in the left hand. Sep 1, 2019 at 17:49
  • @LarsPeterSchultz Actually, I think both your answers could be improved by adding a reference. This might resolve the question, whether the notes have to be played as sixteenth notes or tremolos. Maybe it turns out that different schools teach it differently or that this symbol gives the player the freedom to choose speed themselves.
    – Arsak
    Sep 2, 2019 at 9:22
  • @Arsak - there's a youtube video, and this section is, I think, at about 3:25. It's not easy to establish exactly what he's doing, but even that is an interpretation.
    – Tim
    Sep 2, 2019 at 10:03
  • 2
    @Arsak I have added information in my answer with links and images. Note that if that section was to be played as fast as possible it should be notated with 3 beams in order to indicate that the tempo is unpractical or impossible to play measured and therefore should be played as fast as possible. But instead there are only two beams which indicates sixteenth notes and they can actually be played measured. Sep 2, 2019 at 10:50
  • 2
    @Arsak The notation alone is not conclusive whether a tremolo should be as fast as possible or the notated speed. However, usually it is very clear from the context, e.g. often there is an analogous bar without tremolo notation and the tremolo notation is later used as a shorthand or, as Lars already mentioned, it could be that the notated tempo is too fast to be realistic. (This is not an exhaustive list.)
    – 11684
    Sep 2, 2019 at 15:48

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