Looking at this sheet music of Pietro Antonio Locatelli's "L'arte del violino" Op. 3 we see that the sheet music is pretty old. I have no idea if this is perhaps the original one or not but it does look pretty old. Being an amateur self-taught musician, I am a little confused about some of the music notation here. I am posting an image here of the first page of the first concerto with some markup.

enter image description here

First question, any idea how old this scanned copy is? Could it be the very original one? Or is it much more recent?

Second, about the markups.

  • What are those symbols marked in red? My intelligent guess is that they are the sharp symbol but they look like the double-sharp symbol instead. So which ones are they? Were the double-sharp symbols used for the sharp symbols back in the day? Second thing about these, they are not very clear and look like double-crosses. Are they really supposed to be double-crosses or is it just a single 'x' with bad copy editing job/deterioration with time?
  • The purple in the last line is just a trill, right?
  • The 't' in green, what does that mean? Is that for a trill also? Is yes, then why not just use the same notation as the trill in purple with the appropriate indication of how/which notes to play? How to play this trill?
  • What is that 'w' like symbol at the end of every line in blue? It looks like a trill but there is no note underneath it so what does it mean?


  • 8
    The "solo" curvy lines are definitely an indication to perform the solo one octave higher, and it's not intended to be optional like it has been suggested. The author or transcriber made a point of it in the subheading note, which is in very recognizable nearly-modern Italian: "Dove sono le linee ~~~ si deve sonare un Ottaua più alto", which translates as: "Where the lines ~~~ are found, it shall be played one octave higher" Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 15:46

3 Answers 3


The X's are sharp signs, which means this piece is in D. Note, an X can also mean a double sharp, but in this context (throughout the whole piece), it clearly refers to a sharp.

The t.'s mean trill (this is confirmed by many recordings that I've listened to).

The W's at the end of the line tell where the first note on the next line is. For example, the mark at the end of the first staff is on the D line and the next note is a D.

The W's on the ledger lines in the middle of staves seem to mark the beginning of solos and an optional 8va to set the soloist apart.

  • 4
    Ooh, nice catch with the end-of-line w's. We always want to train ourselves to sightread far enough ahead that those aren't necessary, but I can definitely see myself using them at times.
    – NReilingh
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 20:16
  • 4
    The end of line "w"s (called custodes (singular: custos); latin: guard) were very important in earlier music where the clef (esp. C clefs) would change often (preferring clef changes to ledger lines) so that at the end of lines they would help the performer notice the clef change. Nowadays we would use a courtesy clef at the end of the line to point that out. The w at the solo parts serves the same purpose, showing the note that would be played if the part were written an octave up. Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 18:36
  • Would not the purple marking be a mordant?
    – Caleb
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 15:18
  • @MichaelScottCuthbert I'm sure you know this already, but for others reading the discussions later, "custodes" are also called "directs" in English, with the stress on the first syllable.
    – Pete
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 9:34
  • I don't think the 8va is optional… see @euro-micelli's comment to the other answer about the instruction at the top.
    – Pete
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 9:36
  • Age: Here's the download page. This pdf is the first one (#20529), and there it says it's from ~1733. Locatelli was still alive then so it could very well be the first print.
  • With the red, green, and blue markings I agree with the others; we have sharps, trills, and continuation indicators (showing the first note of the next line)
  • The purple markings also seem to indicate the next note; for example in this recording the soloist actually plays the solo passages an octave higher than written. The purple markings (there's one on the middle of the page, too) seem to indicate this.

EDIT: The name of the blue marking is a custos. Right now I can't find any information about using them in the middle of a line but it seems logical that it would mean "play this as the next note", the same way it works at the end of a line. I don't see why it should be optional but who knows...

  • My thought is that it (the purple) marks an optional 8va for the duration of the solo to set it apart.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 13:56
  • 1
    The purple marks indeed seem to indicate octava for the duration of the wavy solo line underneath; There is a later solo indication at approximately 1:55 in the video/recording that doesn't have this indication, nor the wavy solo line, and that is played loco. Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 14:17

I can't view your posted image (thanks, Mr. Corporate Idiot Firewall). Here are my interpretations based on the source score:

"t" may well be a 'turn,' leading into the following notes, for shorter notes, as well as full trills elsewhere. Looks like there's room for performer interpretation :-) .

The "w" at ends of lines appears simply to indicate the movement continues (there's no "w" at each Fine). You'll notice that the meter would be off if that 'w' indicated any note.

Since the piece appears to be in D-maj, and the key signature has "x" on C and F, I'd say that's the sharp sign.

  • 2
    If you look closer at the "x"s, there are a pair of lines in each direction. So it's a # rotated 45 degrees -- consistent with the theory of it being a sharp sign.
    – slim
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 12:57
  • The slant might be an artifact of handwriting.
    – XTL
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 7:17

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