Tremolo playback

Hi there,

I am happy to see tremolos being played back already, but playback doesn’t behave the way I expected…
For example, if I have two tremolo dashes on a note, I expect to hear 16th notes, but Dorico seems to cut whatever value there is in four — which works for fourth notes, but not other values.

Either Dorico is right here (which I don’t think it is) or this is a bug… :wink:

Best, Daniel

I’m not sure I agree with your expectation that two tremolo strokes on a note of any duration should result in 16th note (semiquaver) playback: the general principle of tremolo notation is that each stroke effectively doubles the number of repetitions, so two strokes on a quarter note (crotchet) would indeed produce 16th notes, but two strokes on a whole note (semibreve) would produce quarter notes.

Of course it would be unusual to write a two-stroke tremolo on a whole note anyway: as Gould points out, normally you would only write a tremolo that would result in notes of an eighth or shorter as the played notes. But I believe that Dorico’s interpretation of a two-stroke tremolo on a whole note is theoretically on reasonably sound footing.

Its handling of a dotted quarter note with two strokes, on the other hand, is not right, and this needs to be addressed (along with tremolos on notes within tuplets, which will also do slightly peculiar things).

I can’t instantly turn up examples of tremolos on whole notes, but I disagree with that interpretation for half notes.

Examples like the attached are common, and interpreting the half-note tremolos as 8ths would be weird. The reason for writing a mixture of half and quarter notes in tremolo passages like that is usually because of the rhythmic positions where the pitch changes.

Surely the correct interpretation is that each slash is equivalent to a beam, if the notes were written out in full?

Hi Daniel,

Rob is correct. Please see the attached example from Adler’s Orchestration.

The strokes do NOT double the number of repetitions (I had this same misunderstanding up until a few months ago). Instead, a single stroke with a half note or quarter note will result in that note being divided into a series of eighth notes; two strokes through either a half note or quarter note will result in it being divided into a series of sixteenths. The number of strokes represents the number of beams in the resulting note values, except for where the note has a beam already.

Well, it’s true that each additional stroke after the first one doubles the number of repetitions - but that rule on its own doesn’t tell you what a single stroke means.

This is a tricky topic… because I have seen both systems used in music notation, and it has sometimes lead to confusion. There is also the issue of the “non-metered” tremolos as well.

I was always taught that the tremolo slash was a shorthand for rhythmic values. So 1 slash would result in that rhythmic value of the original noted filled in with note values of 1 more beam (e.g., a quarter note with 1 slash would be 2 eighth notes, a half note with 1 slashes would become 4 8th notes, a sixteenth with 1 slash would become 2 32nds, etc.).

A great example is from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op.13:
Screen Shot 2016-12-23 at 8.37.05 PM.png
The tremolo on the half notes is represented to divide the half note rhythm in to alternating 8th notes, not quarter notes.

In more recent times, I will say I have seen the idea that 1 slash means to double the value, while 2 slashes means to fill the notes with the note values of 2 additional beams. I think confusion has been allowed to permeate through out the notation community.


As Robby says, two different things.

  1. Especially in hand copied music (or music copied from hand copied music), the slashes were just written as shorthand. There are plenty of examples where the slash divides the note in two, two slashes into 4 etc.
  2. An actual tremolo, which is an unmetered repeat (or alternation) appropriate to the tempo.

Yes, you’re quite right, of course. I’ll ask Paul to revisit this in the New Year.

Might there be a way to specify this idiomatically?
‘Trem.’ for string, the rapid alternations for piano etc. as well as the shortcuts.