I've been studying musical notation for some time now and I decided to take a shot at writing my own piece. It's going pretty smooth, but I have a question to make sure I follow common practices and that my music is readable for people who didn't hear the piece.

The question is how to symbolically distinguish between a long note or chord coming to an end gradually and one that is suddenly broke.

A great example of a latter, that comes to my mind is a signal that is played in Cracow, Poland everyday on the hour which has a distinct interruption which, according to the legend, memorializes the trumpeter who was shot by a mongol archer while playing the signal to alert the city of the invasion of Tatars.

Here is the link to the video:

Case of the St. Mary's signal is a bit different since there's a pitch change at the very least of the signal. What I'm looking for is a way for denoting a sudden end of a single note.

For the score I'm working on it is essential to clearly indicate such abrupt break of long notes. I'd appreciate any help. Thanks in advance!

2 Answers 2


I actually saw this just yesterday in scores written by Bruce Broughton (Silverado, JAG, Tombstone, Dallas, Hawaii Five-O).

The way he wrote it was a note for the bulk of the duration tied to a shorter note with a staccato mark above it (first measure in the example below).

X: 2
M: 4/4
K: C
L: 1/4

Generally if you want to have an articulation occur at the end or middle of a note, separate the full note value into tied notes that add up to the full value to create noteheads where you want the articulation to occur (second measure in the example above).

This is not merely the style of Bruce Broughton, this is how the book Behind Bars says to do it, which is likely where Mr. Broughton got the idea from, since he is a fan of the book. Any serious study of notation should include that book.

  • That's what I thought at first but I wanted to confirm my guess and see if there are different suggestions. And thanks for the book recommendation! Mar 28, 2021 at 18:01
  • In the first measure of the example, when the note should end? On the third or fourth beat? Mar 29, 2021 at 6:11

In the case of Cracow's signal the effect of abruptness is created by shutting off the note right after it starts. So it will be hard to do anything specific on the long note to finish it in abrupt way (at least I can't think of anything).

I think a regular fermata that inidicates that note should be played longer but also indicates to the performer that she should wait for the conductor's singal to end could be the best notation in this situation.

So for example if a whole note should be 'broken' earlier you could write a half note prolonged by fermata instead

  • The note in the OP video is just a staccato. Using a fermata and relying on a conductor 1) presumes there's a conductor, and 2) begs the question of how to notate the conductor's score so the conductor knows to signal an abrupt cutoff.
    – Aaron
    Mar 28, 2021 at 16:41
  • Fermata won't do since I need to precisely define a point at which the note should stop. Mar 28, 2021 at 18:06

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