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I came across this notation in a guitar solo collection book, but I don't know what it means. It's a bracket spanning a chord (The Asus4, A/C# and G chords in the image below.)

enter image description here

enter image description here

My first guess is that it means to form a barre chord, but the same book uses the notation "C.3" or "C.5" for barre chords.

EDIT: The same piece also contains wavy lines. enter image description here

The piece is the "Opening Theme" from Final Fantasy. The piece comes from this book, Final Fantasy Guitar Solo Collection. The book is Japanese if that matters. enter image description here

I had a closer look at the other pieces in the same book, and here are some more images

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    What piece is this from? Does this happen anywhere else in the piece? What happens in the bar before this notation? Jun 21 at 12:05
  • This could be notation telling you to play all the notes exactly at the same time, and not to “roll” the chord. Particularly if there is notation asking you to arpeggiate a chord in the bar before (a vertical wavy line in front of the chord). Jun 21 at 12:09
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    It could just be how half-barres are shown in this book. Are there are any half-barre markings elsewhere? (1/2C for instance.) Jun 21 at 12:13
  • Also, it is worth noting that you need to be barring more than just the two notes here (which can almost be done with just the fingertip) so that you can barre the C# in the following chord. The bracket might be helping to show this. Although that wouldn’t explain why it also includes the open string. Jun 21 at 12:16
  • Maybe it's half-barres? That makes sense when I look at the finger positions (I think.) I haven't come across a 1/2C in the book yet.
    – John
    Jun 21 at 12:35
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Now that you’ve posted extra sections from the same piece, I am pretty certain that this is used as notation for a half-barre (or to be more precise, an incomplete barre). It’s slightly misleading, as you often don’t need to barre all of the notes within the brackets shown.

This is a rather ambiguous music notation marking anyway. It is dependant upon context and which instrument it is written for. To give some examples:

  • for bowed strings, this bracket indicates a double-stop
  • on piano this can show which notes are played by which hand
  • on instruments such as harp, where chords are naturally "rolled" (arpeggiated), it tells the performer to play the notes without a roll, all at the same time

Furthermore, as Tim points out in his answer, this bracket has also been used to indicate the opposite of the last meaning above, to play the notes with a roll - although I haven't seen this usage.

Context is everything: because of the fingerings indicated in your excepts (the chord "shapes"), and as there are no other markings usually associated with half-barres (1/2C, 1/2CV, 1/2V etc.), this must mean use a half-barre, or incomplete barre.

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  • I haven’t listened to the CD yet, but yes, I think so too. There are two places where the bracket spans an open A string as well (in the Asus4 chord), but that might be a notation error. When I look at the fingers and the position on the fret board, it makes more sense that it means a partial barre.
    – John
    Jun 21 at 14:25
  • I considered that, but why would a barre line cover other notes that wouldn't be included in that barre?
    – Tim
    Jun 21 at 14:31
  • Duff notation, I think @Tim. After all, this is a TAB plus conventional notation book, rather than purely "classical" guitar notation. Jun 21 at 14:32
  • The CD is provided - by listening, maybe OP could answer the question...
    – Tim
    Jun 21 at 14:47
  • So, I tried to give the CD a spin in the only "CD"-player that I have, but either my PS5 console doesn't play CDs, or the CD is broken. I will see if I can find someone with a CD-player or buy one myself.
    – John
    Jun 22 at 0:10
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It's an alternative (now pretty well unused) to the wavy line meaning arpeggiate. No direction is shown, unusual for guitar tab. Hardly going to be a 'barre' sign, as the chord shape doesn't need it. And if it was, the following chord woud have the same.

Having said that, it makes more sense that it actually means the opposite! In that it's a block chord, better not strummed at all, but played with all notes exactly together. Quite comfy using thumb, index, middle and ring fngers. For the life of me, I see no point in using that mark - unless there's a wavy arpeggio mark in a previous bar.

Now seeing other bars my middle paragraph seems like the answer. Surely, by listening to the accompanying CD while looking at the music, it would be clear?

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  • I have never seen a bracket used for a roll. In fact I have seen it used to mean the opposite. Jun 21 at 12:17
  • I'm shamelessly quoting Dolmetsch... It's a sign of the times - olden times. Google 'Dolmetsch signs'
    – Tim
    Jun 21 at 12:18
  • Would be great if you could show another piece that uses this notation for a roll; I’m happy to be proven wrong! Jun 21 at 12:19
  • Interesting, could you add a link? Jun 21 at 12:19
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    Way too early to accept any answer! Please wait until there's a choice.
    – Tim
    Jun 21 at 12:43
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Couldn't it simply be sloppy notation by the publisher? I would normally interpret this as a barre chord just like others have suggested, and I would ignore the open-A inside the bracket as an error.

If the piece is particular about where and how the Asus4 chord is played on the guitar, then it is probably just the publisher's failed attempt at relating a specific voicing for the chord. Knowing a little about how things are transcribed for publication (I had a instructor who got side work doing transcriptions of popular recordings for CBS publishing), I wouldn't put a lot of stock in the assumption that the transcription is based upon the chord voicings that were used (or even intended) by the original composer when the piece was written. The sheet music publisher rarely has access to the original scores (if a written score even exists) and they oftentimes contract somebody else to transcribe the sheet music from recordings. So what you are looking at is a publisher's interpretation of an artist's interpretation of a piece of music that was written by somebody else and transcribed by ear. That makes it interpreted TWICE in the process. In other words, don't put a lot of concern into what the publisher intended, it most likely wasn't what the composer intended anyway.

BTW, I've seen much stranger and more difficult to interpret guitar notation than this.

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This bracket is indicating which finger to use to hold down each of the notes being barred:

enter image description here

So this would be your thumb on the lowest note, pointer finger for the 2 above, and middle finger for the highest note. I say this because later on the numbers go up to four, indicating this might use all 5 of your fingers since this index begins at 0.

These below are the tabs for the chord:

enter image description here

The squiggly lines are arpeggiated chords, you can see the fingering and tabs both share this symbol when it appears:

enter image description here

Again, I think this fingering is indicating your pinky play the highest night, middle finger is second highest, pointer finger 3rd down, and your ring finger playing the lowest note.

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    I also think it means to hold a barre, but how do you explain the bracket covering the open A-string in the Asus4 chord? On the G-chord, they don't include the open G-string inside the bracket. I personally think this is a notation error on the Asus4 chord. That being said, I need to listen to the CD as well, but I currently don't have a CD-player that works.
    – John
    Jun 22 at 0:22
  • This can't be right. How could you 'hold down' an open string with your thumb? And how can the bracket show a barre when there's an open string included, and a barre certainly isn;t needed to play those notes making Asus4?
    – Tim
    Jun 22 at 6:06

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