Music Symbols

Music symbols are instructions that signify how music notes and/or pieces should be played.

Below is a list of the principal signs both current and obsolete.

List of Music Symbols

  • dot-above-or-belowA dot above or below a music note signifying staccato; spiccato; vibrato; sforzato (obsolete)
  • dot-after-note-or-restA dot after a music note or rest prolonging the time value by half.
  • wedge-shapeA wedge shaped dash, above or below a music note, indicating staccatissimo
  • slurA slur
  • tieA tie
  • crossed-slursCrossed slurs, indicating that the note beneath them belongs to two series, being the end of one and the beginning of the other
  • mezzo-legatoMezzo Legato
  • bebungBebung Mezzo staccato
  • staccato-and-marcatoStaccato and Marcato
  • Time signatures used in mensurable music
    • time-signatures-mensurable
  • Music notes used in old mensurable music
  • maxima   Maxima, duplex longa
  • longa  Longo
  • brevis  Brevis
  • semibrevis  Semibrevis
  • minima   Minima
  • semiminima   Semiminima
  • fusa Fusa
  • semifusa   Semifusa
  • Modern music notes
  • breve   Breve or double note
  • semibreve   Semibreve or whole note
  • minim  Minim or half note
  • crotchet   Crotchet or quarter note
  • quaver  Quaver or eighth note
  • semiquaver   Semiquaver or sixteenth note
  • demisemiquaver   Demisemiquaver or thirty-second note
  • hemidemisemiquaver  Hemidemisemiquaver or sixty-fourth note
  • Rests
    • rests
  • single-relishAbove a note a single relish
  • double-relishA double relish
  • son-coupeAbove notes, former used to indicate a son coupe, the latter to indicate a unison (obsolete and rare)
  • thumbAbove or below a note thumb in English fingering.
    • Before a note, a shake (obsolete)
    • Before a note a shake in French music of the Eighteenth Century
    • An old form of the double sharp
    • In music of Wagner it signifies that the sound of the notes in the horn parts is to be damped
  • shaked-gracesShaked graces (obsolete)
  • obsolete-sharpObsolete form of sharp
  • Obsolete form of double sharps
    • obsolete-double-sharps
  • Im. Or Ima. Primo; prima
  • IId. Or IIda. Secondo; seconds
  • metronome-markM.M. Metronome mark
  • tripletTriplet
  • quadrupletQuadruplet
  • 8 va. An octave higher (octava alta)
  • 8 va ba. An octave lower (octava bassa)
  • 4tette, 5tette Quartette; quintette
  • Man. I Great Organ Manual I
  • Man II. Choir Organ Manual II
  • presaPresa
  • segnoSegno
  • flatFlat
  • double-flatDouble flat
  • sharpSharp or double sharp
  • naturalNatural
  • single-sharp-after-double-sharpSingle sharp, after a double sharp
  • single-flat-after-double-flatSingle flat, after a double flat
  • Breathing marks
    • breathing-marks
  • circleCircle; harmonic mark; open string; tasto solo
  • sharpedIn figured bass, a stroke through the figure indicates that the interval so marked is sharped.
  • 2/2, ¾, 6/8 etc., time signatures
  • I, II, III, I, ii,iii, etc. see chord
  • Double-contra octave (32 ft. octave)
    • double-contra
  • contra-octaveContra octave (16 ft octave)
  • great-octaveGreat octave (8 ft. octave)
  • small-octaveSmall octave (4 ft. octave)
  • one-lined-octaveOne-lined or once accented octave (2 ft. octave)
  • two-lined-octaveTwo-lined or twice accented octave (1 ft. octave)
  • three-lined-octaveThree-lined or thrice accented octave (6 in. octave)
  • four-lined-octaveFour-lined or four times accented octave (3 in. octave)
  • five-lined-octaveFive-lined or five times accented octave (1 ½ in octave)
  • Gamma
  • cadentBetween two notes signifies a Cadent
  • schleiferAn accent; schleifer; portamento or Nachschalg (obsolete)
  • springerBetween two notes, a springer
  • obsolete-arpeggioAn oblique line crossing a chord, indicating an acciaccatura or arpeggio (obsolete)
  • nachschlagNachschlag, when placed between two notes or above or below the space between two notes (obsolete)
  • chuteOn the right side above a note, a chute (obsolete)
  • port-de-voixOn the left above a note, port de voix (obsolete)
  • backfallAbove a note, a backfall, and a double backfall
  • couleBefore a note, an accent, port de voix, coule (obsolete)
  • pince-couleAfter a note, pince coule (obsolete)
  • tasto-soloTasto solo, play the bass notes without chords
  • double-appoggiaturaBefore a note, double appoggiatura (obsolete)
  • suspensionSuspension
  • right-couleOn the right side above a note, coule
  • left-backfallOn the left above a note, the backfall and double backfall
  • plain-beatPlaced between two notes, signifies a plain beat (obsolete)
  • trillTrill
  • tremblementTremblement
  • arpeggioArpeggio
  • stopStop names in harmonium music
  • rubato-sustainRubato, sustain and emphasize
  • tenutoTenuto
  • very-staccatoVery staccato; martellato
  • marcatoMarcato
  • martellatoMartellato; pesante (rare)
  • sing-one-syllablePlaced under notes to be sung to one syllable
  • crescendoCrescendo
  • decrescendoDecrescendo
  • crescendo-and-dimuendoCrescendo and diminuendo
  • dimuendo-and-crescendoDiminuendo and crescendo
  • staffStaff
  • barBar
  • double-barDouble bar
  • Repeats
    • repeats
  • vocal-repeatIndicates in vocal music that a word or phrase is repeated; in instrumental music that a measure or part of measure is repeated
  • pauseA pause, or hold
  • directA direct
  • ritmoRitmo di battute
  • one-hand-one-fingerIn piano music signifies that two notes on different staves are to be played with one hand; or two adjoining notes are to be played with one finger
  • bindBind
  • braceA brace
  • rinforzamentoRinforzamento
  • rizforzandoRinforzando
  • forzandoForzando or sforzato
  • martellementPort de voix; martellement
  • small-shakeMartellement, or small shake
  • stressIndicates a stress or marked accent on any single note or chord
  • flat-turnTurn, with the note above made flat
  • sharp-turnTurn, with the note below made sharp
  • close-shakeVibration or close shake
  • phrasePhrase
  • sectionSection

Organ Music Symbols

  • 2’, 4’, 8’, 16’ – 2 foot, 4 foot, etc,: designating the pitch of organ pipes
  • heel-and-toeHeel and toe, placed above notes for the right foot, below for the left foot
  • slide-toeSlide toe to next note
  • change-toesChange toes on same note
  • heel-and-toe-same-footHeel and toe of the same foot alternately
  • where-to-pressA recent sign to mark exactly where the pedal is to be pressed and released
  • release-pedalRelease pedal

Violin Music Symbols

  • up-bowUp-bow
  • down-bowDown-bow on violin
  • short-bowingShort-bowing
  • long-bowingLong-bowing
  • down-bow-violincelloDown bow on violoncello playing

Mandolin Music Symbols

  • down-plectrumDown plectrum in mandolin playing
  • up-plectrumUp plectrum in mandolin playing

Guitar Music Symbols

  • Left hand:
  • 0   Open string
  • 1  First string
  • 2   Second string
  • 3  Third string
  • Right hand:
  • first-guitar-string  First string
  • second-guitar-string   Second string
  • third-guitar-string   Third string
  • thumb-string   Thumb string

Wind Instruments Music Symbols

  • open-holeOpen hole on flute or flageolet
  • closed-holeClosed hole on flute or flageolet
  • partly-closed-holePartly closed hole on flute or flageolet
  • 0 Open tube in brass wind instruments
  • valves-in-brassDesignates valves in brass wind instrument playing
  • demi-staccatoDemi-staccato, made by tonguing as if pronouncing the letter d

Drum Music Symbols

  • left-hand-stickAbove the staff, signifies that the left hand stick is raised; below, indicates that the right is raised
  • tap-beatTap beat
  • both-sticks-dropBoth sticks drop on drum at same time

Violoncello Music Symbols

  • thumb-positionThumbs position in cello playing