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AmareAppogiature

Notation Question

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Suppose you are writing a string part in 4/4.  You want them to play a 16th tremolo but in triplets.  How would you score that?  It seems to me that there are four possibilities.  You could switch to 12/8 but that would mess up the tempo because a quarter note would be the same value as a dotted quarter note.  You could make triplets with a dotted quarter note, triplets with 3 eighth notes, or simply write out all the 16th notes, but all of these seem a little weird to me.  I'd much appreciate the input from those more knowledgeable than I.. Thanks!

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If I wanted strings to play 16th-note triplets, I'd rather write them out. If I indicated a tremolo effect instead, string players might just want to play as many notes as they can, regardless of their exact number, which doesn't seem like what you're going for.

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That makes sense.  My thought was that I've seen a lot of instances that indicate a tremolo when the same note is simply to be repeated in a measure at a specified rhythm without being a true string tremolo, such as in the last measure below (from the 2nd movement of Beethoven's 5th), but what you said makes more sense.  Thanks for the advice!

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Just to be clear in the example above, those are NOT tremolos. Tremolos have 3 slashes, the above example has 2, which in that case means to play them as 16th notes. That's basically shorthand for composers who don't want to write out the same note over and over again. 

If you want a clear rhythm (which I assume you want with 16th notes triplets...meaning 1 8th note gets 3 16ths), the best way is probably to write it out just be clear. If the triplets are the same note, you can also write out the 3 8th notes in a triplet, and use the "single slash" tremolo line. 

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As already explained clearly by the others, tremolo is not a specific division in time, so that point has been covered. Assuming therefore that what you do want is the specific precise time-division you refer to, you do not wish to "switch to 12/8". However, as you have worked out, 4/4 and 12/8 are closely related, by exactly this division into triplets, and it's a common thing. Likewise with, for instance, 3/4 and 9/8. Often you will need to make a choice between whether to base your tempo marking on the base time interval, or the dotted one (dotted means one and a half, so 3/2, which corresponds to the inverse ratio of 2/3 for triplets). You need to mark your triplets. If you want to save on writing, you can mark a section sim. (simile).

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