What is this notation?

• Feb 17, 2014 - 23:17

I have never seen this before, and I don't know how (or even IF) it can be entered into Musescore. I can do triplets not problem, and even the first one (in the red rectangle) where it has dotted notes. (Although I don't know why it's written as separate parts since it is four notes played together, in groups of three).
But the problem is the two triplets in the red circles. Here we have what looks like a triplet, but there are three number 3's over each one, with three dots below each number 3. I have no idea what this is, and have not been able to find anything about it online. I have been searching since yesterday. So if anyone has any idea what it is or how to enter it into Musescore, I would be very appreciative if you could explain, Thanks in advance.


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It's just a shorthand way of representing triplets. Each slashed note stem with a 3 above it represents a triplet (three 16th notes in the space of two). The dots indicate staccato.

You can create the appearance in MuseScore using dots and dashes (rests) from the Z palette. Note that it will not play back correctly. This sort of shorthand was used when paper and ink (and the time taken by the scribe/engraver) were very expensive. Nowadays I'd just print it out in full. An exception I can think of would be for music for a marching band where the players have the music on little cards clipped to their instruments and space is at a premium.

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In reply to by underquark

Underquark, thanks for the explanation. I think I can work it out now. I'm sure this piece of music is going to throw a lot of things at me, and I've only been using Musescore for just a few months, and this past month not at all. I was away, then I got sick. Maybe a less ambitious score would have been better to start with again, but I like a challenge. Thanks again!

It would help if you attached the MuseScore file but, basically, if you play it back in MuseScore does it sound like the printed score? I usually enter triplets as triplets and then - if they are repeated - select the triplet and use R to repeat it. Weird things start to happen in MuseScore when you mess about too much with triplets.

In reply to by underquark

When I entered it as a tuplet of 9, it did play ok, but I haven't heard the score played as written (see my image above...the part in the red circle), so I can't say if it supposed to sound that way. And I can't play it on my piano because honestly I don't know how it is supposed to be played. I've never seen it before, nor can I find any examples online. So that's an issue. I suppose I'll leave it as a tuplet of 9 and if it sounds OK, I'll live with it for now and continue entering the rest of the score. It can always be changed later.
Thanks again!

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

If it's the same as the first thing (the one in the red rectangle), why do you suppose they didn't write it the same way? Just curious. But now I will enter it the same as the first one in the previous measure. One other thing, though, wouldn't a tuplet of 9 be the same as three triplets? What am I missing there? Thanks again for all the help.

In reply to by Jm6stringer

OK, looking at the measure with the red circled "thing", I have tried every way I can to enter this as three tuplets, but the total beat should be 3 eighth notes for the measure to have 4 beats in 4/4 time. But the individual notes in each of the three tuplets are dotted, and it just doesn't work. If anyone can explain EXACTLY how I should enter this, if it's even possible, I would appreciate the help. I have tried a tuplet of 9, but that doesn't work either. The notes I need to enter always carry over to the next measure..........in other words, it doesn't fit in the measure, as it's supposed to.
Either I am doing something totally wrong, or this just can't be done in Musescore. Thanks, once again!

In reply to by bill2reg

1. Select the measure.
2. Enter note entry (N). I assume the cursor is at the beginning of the measure.
3. Type 4 0 0 0 0. This will enter 4 eighth note rests and leave a half rest.
4. Exit note entry mode (N)
5. Select the second eighth note rest and ctrl-select the last 2 eighth note rests, so all three are selected.
6. Press ctrl-3. Three separate sixteenth note triples will be created.

In reply to by schepers

OK, so I can do that, and it actually creates what I did in the previous measure (the one in the red rectangle), but the only difference I see is that the measure in question, that "triple triplet" has the 16th notes dotted, while the previous measure doesn't. so when I enter the notes as you suggested (which is what I had tried before as well), it looks exactly like the three triplets in that previous measure, without the dotted notes. This is what I still find confusing. But I will enter it the way you say, and so I will assume that that's how it's supposed to play. But those dotted 16th notes threw me off. Thanks for your help.

In reply to by bill2reg

They aren't dotted sixteenths. They are dotted *eighths*, with a "3" and and a quasi-tremolo marking to indicate that these notes should be divided into thirds. The reason they are written as dotted eighths is what I said before - that's what three sixteenths normally add up to. It's kind of odd, and sure, could be confusing. But there can be no question - all this notation is doing is telling you to play the same rhythm as the previous measures. They just picked a funny way of doing it.

In reply to by bill2reg

The notes aren't actually dotted. That was just someone trying to cover their own laziness in having written this notation in the first place by saying to themselves, "maybe the person reading this won't understand the 3 I wrote above each note and will assume the slash mark means 2 eighth notes, so I'll write these as dotted eighths to clue the reader in that I mean them grouped in threes". But I know the piece well; it's tripet sixteenths, nothing more.

In reply to by bill2reg

They wrote it the way they did because they did it by hand and were lazy, or were trying to save a tiny amount of space or ink.

Three sets of sixteenth note tuplets add up to one and a half beats, and they also have clear beam breaks between them as well as brackets to make it clear that each set takes exactly half a beat.

A 9-tuplet takes an as-yet-unspecified amount of time, but the default assumption would be you meant 9 sixteenths in the space of 2 beats. Thus, not the same thing at all - it would take longer / play slower. You could go out of your way to create a special tuplet, which you would have to notate as 9:6 to indicate that these 9 sixteenths take only a beat and a half. But even so, you wouldn'ty get the separate beaming or brackets, so a player would struggle mightly to understand how it's supposed to work. Separate tripelts with each triplet mapping clearly and obviously onto its own half beat is much, much easier to read.


" I've never seen it before, nor can I find any examples online."

You mean you can't find this actual piece - Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue? Or you can't find any other examples? Lots of old brass pieces (especially solo cornet, sometimes euphonium) have it. The attached piece uses it from measure 128 onwards. In this case the original has the dotted quavers and horizontal partial beams and the number 3 and the little brackets. In the MuseScore piece I have cheated and the tremelo symbol has been used for laziness' sake and the quavers aren't dotted (no need really) but it does say "Simile" to indicate continuing in the same vein.

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