To be perfectly honest, I've long forgotten my music theory. I'm now a poet and I need a visual way to indicate a single note that reverberates for 2-3 seconds (think of a third-full wine glass gently tapped with a pen) in one of my poems.

I see that Unicode affords us a few options, so if anyone could advise me of a good or reasonable way to represent such a sound on a page, I would be eternally grateful.

  • It would be helpful to know more about your larger purpose in this. Note durations don't correspond directly to time units like seconds, but understanding how you're looking to use the notation would help choose a note that properly expresses your interest. – Aaron Nov 6 '20 at 1:06
  • @Aaron I merely want to leave some rhythmic direction to someone reading a poem without using words. :) – mig81 Nov 6 '20 at 1:18
  • So you're looking for a notation that means "draw this word/syllable out for three poetic beats"? – Aaron Nov 6 '20 at 1:39
  • @Aaron Hm. Correct. – mig81 Nov 6 '20 at 1:43
  • The best way to notate this with engraving is an open tie on the note. Not sure if thereโ€™s a Unicode way to add an open tie. – Todd Wilcox Nov 6 '20 at 19:12

Whatever symbol you use, you will probably have to clarify its meaning, since note values don't correspond to absolute lengths of time.

The symbol ๐…ˆ๐…ฅ (or, Triangle Notehead Up White + Musical Symbol Combining Stem characters) in a large enough font would be appropriate. Triangle note heads are commonly used for auxiliary percussion parts such as the triangle (unsurprisingly), woodblock, cowbell, and possibly a wine glass if it were included in a musical work. Alternatively, a simple half note ๐…ž may be preferable simply because it will be more widely recognized.

  • This is precisely what I was looking for! I don't think I need this to be awfully perfect, but something approximating correct notation would do in this case. :) Two follow-up questions: 1. What is the proper way to indicate the length of such a note? 2. I've never hard of the triangle-note-head symbol. Is there a link perhaps that explains its origins and function? – mig81 Nov 6 '20 at 1:16
  • 1
    The proper way to indicate the duration of that note within a musical work would be to use a tempo marking, but in a poem you could simply note that ๐…ˆ๐…ฅ means "a (sound) rings out for about 3 seconds," which is much clearer. There are many different note heads in use, such as crosses, squares, triangles, and slashes. They may indicate a different playing technique, a different instrument, or something else depending on context. web.mit.edu/merolish/Public/drums.pdf here's a link to some common percussion notation. – Edward Nov 6 '20 at 1:25
  • Ah, this is a lovely explanation and a lovely reference. Thank you for this! – mig81 Nov 6 '20 at 1:44

Since musical notation corresponds to abstract "beats" rather than fixed time units like "seconds", you can tie your notation directly to the pacing of the poem.

  • For a fixed length of 2 (poetic) beats, use ๐…ž (Half Note U+1D15E)
  • For a fixed length of 3 (poetic) beats, use ๐…—๐…ฅ. (Half Note + Combining Augmentation Dot U+1D16D)
  • For a hold of indeterminate length, use ๐„ (Fermata U+1D110)
  • For a hold of at least 2 or 3 beats, use a half note or dotted half note with a fermata placed above.

All of these symbols can be found at the Wikipedia Music Template.

Alternatively, you could use the symbols for poetic feet.

  • Holy crap. You went above and beyond. Thank you for this! – mig81 Nov 6 '20 at 20:37
  • Symbols for poetic feet indicate stress (individually), or rhythm (when arranged into metrical feet). This doesn't help much with a sustained sound. – mig81 Nov 11 '20 at 0:39
  • @mig81 poetic feet could be used to indicate the number of โ€œbeatsโ€ to sustain the sound. But placed it at the end of the answer, since itโ€™s not the requested info nor an ideal solution. – Aaron Nov 11 '20 at 1:34

The Unicode table for musical symbols:


Note: this is the official Unicode page for this group of characters.

I'd say that the character that might be most easily understood by most people for your purpose might be the second one, which means "hold this note for a while":


  • While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. - From Review – Brian Towers Nov 6 '20 at 16:09
  • @Brian Point taken. This page however should be quite stable because it's the official chart by the Unicode consortium. – MMazzon Nov 6 '20 at 17:07
  • Whoa. This is a great resource, @MMazzon. Thank you for this! – mig81 Nov 6 '20 at 20:36
  • Note that the Fermata should be 'attached to' (positioned over) a note. I would use a whole note under the fermata, for its 'poetic' symmetry. ๐„ ๐… – Biscuit Taylor Nov 6 '20 at 20:57


(That's 1D110 ๐„ MUSICAL SYMBOL FERMATA, over 1D15D ๐… MUSICAL SYMBOL WHOLE NOTE.) Ideally, you would make them line up vertically.

  • It may be worthwhile to clarify that this as a fermata. – Richard Nov 7 '20 at 23:52
  • Thanks for the tip, Richard. Just learning the ropes here. – Biscuit Taylor Nov 9 '20 at 6:32

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