Sunday, May 10, 2009

Slashes through note stems?

There are many abbreviations in printed music which have been used over the past 1-3 centuries to make hand-written music faster to copy out, use less ink, and allow some music to be abbreviated for ease of page turns and the like.

One of the abbreviations that often confuses the student, when it pops up unexpectedly in older printed music, is the symbol that looks like slashes through the note stems.
These slashes represent a short-hand method of indicating dividing the written pitch into repeated eighth notes, sixteenths or even 32nd notes; all played on the same pitch.

One slash through a the stem of a quarter note* (British "crochet" translation below) means for you to divide that note value into eighth notes*. One slash is equivalent to one beam. Look at it as "eighth notes have one beam, so one slash on a quarter note means eighth notes". Two slashes through a quarter note stem mean to divide that note value into sixteenths. Look at it as "sixteenths have two beams". Three slashes mean to divide that note value into thirty-seconds. Just as thirty-seconds have three beams, this slash mark has three beams".

This picture is taken from the excellent flute method book by Alfred Brooke:


A full page pdf version of the above page from the Brooke Method for flute is here in PDF, and shows further practise samples of these note division abbreviations. The PDF version is easier to view and read.

As you will see slashes through note stems and/or dots shown above the note head indicate the same principle: Divide the note into the value that has the number of beams. Exammple; one beam (one dot, = 8th notes) (two dots = divide into 16ths; four dots = divide into 32nd notes.)

How many beams are indicated:
This short-hand symbol method goes further into numbers of beams if you have a slash through an eighth note (see above jpeg). Since an eighth already has one beam, if a slash is added, that indicates to create two sixteenths (slash + 1/8th beam = two beams = sixteenth notes).

It's interesting to note that this slash-through-stem abbreviation was a little difficult to locate in this otherwise very complete music symbol page from Dolmetsch music history, theory and music dictionary online, which is otherwise an excellent resource.
I finally located the same slash-stems explanations as found in the Brooke Flute Method on the Dolmetsch site here.

Hope this helps,

Best,
Jen

P.S.
For British Music Students:

The British or The European rhythmic naming
system uses a list of names which are derived from
Italian words.

To translate:

Semibreve = whole note

Minim = half-note

Crotchet=quarter note

Quaver = eighth note

Semiquaver = sixteenth note

demi-semi-quaver = thirty-second note

hemi-demi-semi-quaver = sixty-fourth note
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Comments (10)
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much!! I have been asking about this forever and no one has been able to clearly explain it to me. This is very clear and definitely helpful!!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010 5:51:00 PM

 
Blogger jen said...

You're quite welcome.
I always try and post an easy-to-read explanation if I was unable to find a viable explanation on the web.
So your input has helped me know that I did the right thing here.
Thanks too.
Jen

Tuesday, March 09, 2010 6:35:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the notation of the slash through the note stem
the first example does not make sense
if one slash means 1/2 the value
then the half note should be a quarter
I am confused
Bob

Friday, September 09, 2011 5:30:00 AM

 
Blogger jen said...

Thanks Bob, I fixed that.
So confusing, even in the source material from every source.
Now it's right; the word I needed to use was "beam" not "half value".
Thanks so much. Jen speedtypist

Friday, September 09, 2011 11:00:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait, so does that mean that an eighth note with one slash is played as a sixteenth note?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012 2:13:00 PM

 
Blogger jen said...

Dear Anonymous,

One slash through an eighth note stem means to play two sixteenths.
See: http://www.dolmetsch.com/musictheory24.htm#notes

Best, Jen

Tuesday, July 03, 2012 2:28:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does no one speak in proper music terms? I've learnt music note values with semibreve, minum, crotchet and quaver. This makes no sense, can someone PLEASE make this easier for me to understand?

Sunday, August 12, 2012 9:18:00 PM

 
Blogger jen said...

The British musical terms for rhythmic values compared to the American terms are all listed here for your convenience, charts and all:
http://www.squidoo.com/music-theory-terminology

Best, Jen

Sunday, August 12, 2012 9:32:00 PM

 
Blogger jen said...

Here, again from above are the British rhythmic word equivalents:

The British or The European rhythmic naming
system uses a list of names which are derived from
Italian words.

To translate:

Semibreve = whole note

Minim = half-note

Crotchet=quarter note

Quaver = eighth note

Semiquaver = sixteenth note

demi-semi-quaver = thirty-second note

hemi-demi-semi-quaver = sixty-fourth note

Sunday, August 12, 2012 9:43:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks! I got assained music today including notes like this. Thanks once again!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 5:50:00 PM

 

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