Throughout the score there are various CX, CVII signs and the alla breve sign (which is obviously not Alla Breve). From what I could gather, these are fingering instructions for the pinky (C), but I couldn't find a full explanation.

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The source can be found here:

What are these and how do I read them?

  • That 1st sign looks exactly like a cut 4/4 sign. Maybe the printers didn't have a better one?
    – Tim
    May 2, 2022 at 16:48
  • @Tim you mean a 2/2 sign? This is otherwise known as alla breve, as noted in the question.
    – phoog
    May 3, 2022 at 10:54
  • @phoog - C is another way to write 4/4. Cut C - cut 4/4. Yes, alla breve or 2/2.
    – Tim
    May 3, 2022 at 11:18

5 Answers 5


They're fret numbers. Sometimes they refer to that fret barred, sometimes (as in the sign lke cut time) they refer to a part barre. The lowest notes are usually best left played as open, although here, CV refers to fret 5, so the low A could be played on 6th string, fret 5 - BUT - since it's a half barre, it indicates play it open. The D, on the other hand (sic) might be better played fretted at 10, as indicated, making the staccato easier to perform.


The C stands for "Capo", in Italian and refers to "barring" a fret. The Roman numerals tell you which fret to place your barre on. The ¢ means a partly barred fret, which may involve a different number of strings sometimes specified. This is not the only notation method used in classical guitar music to indicate barring. And, modern music will often not even use traditional music notation at all, but rely on TAB (a modern version of the older "tablature" notation often used by lutenists and earlier forms of guitars, like the vilhuela. Or simply use chord boxes that will show which frets and strings to barre, usually with your left index finger, though Blues guitarists sometimes also use other fingers to barre a fret to enable unique combinations of notes to produce the distinctive Blues sound.


The C with a slash through means a half-barre of some sort 2 - 5 strings as the harmony dictates.

The straight C probably indicates a full barre but the notation is awkward.

The position is indicated with Roman Numerals as is the tradition.

I - One

II - Two

III - Three

IV - Four

V - Five

VI - Six

VII - Seven

VIII - Eight

IV - Nine

X - Ten

XI - Eleven

XII - Twelve.


These are fret numbers, as @Tim already said, but they do not necessarily indicate full or partial barré. They indicate position. This sometimes does mean a barré, sometimes it indicates just the playing position on the fretboard.

PS: as requested in the comment: the position is indicated by a "C" followed by a roman numeral, i.e. "CIV" for fourth position or "CVII" for seventh position. It indicates the "root fret" for the hand position on the fretboard, which sometimes means to play a full or partial barré, sometimes it just indicates the finger position.

For instance: playing a am7 chord as A-x-g-c'-e'-x (5th fret, A-string and e-string muted)) would also be 5th position without any barré involved.

  • Could you be more explicit about what symbol means what position?
    – Aaron
    May 3, 2022 at 13:50

The notation is not very good (using a cut common time music character) and the note setter was being lazy - using a cut common time character from the music font. As indicated above, the cut time character is for a partial barre. You may also see this as 1/2C or 1/2B - '1/2' does not always mean just three strings though. The ordinary 'C' is for a full barre or "capo". And sometimes only the position, typically in Roman numerals is marked. Neither of these position markers have anything to do with the meter. The barre marking is fundamental to classical guitar scores and its technique, and you will also see other types of indications for hinge and pivot barres. Unless there is some mechanical reason why you can't play the same passage somewhere else on the neck though, I would do myself a favour and Tip-Ex those technical instructions out. They are often only someone's best guess, and you will find your own positions that please you more.

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