The title resumes my question well: what does a white/hollow punctum represent in Gregorian notation?

From: les Bénédictins de Solesme. (1959). Paroissien romain, contenant la Messe et l’Office: N° 800. Desclée & cie. hollow-punctum-example-no-1

From: Salve Regina (with Drone). (n.d.). Mass Propers. Retrieved August 7, 2022, from https://bbloomf.github.io/jgabc/propers.html#custom1=litany/salve-regina-drone hollow-punctum-example-no-2

  • "The punctum is the basic note shape (in the Vaticana style: a square with some curvation for typographical finesse). In addition to the regular punctum, there is also the oblique punctum inclinatum, produced with the prefix \inclinatum. The regular punctum can be modified with \cavum, which produces a hollow note, and \linea, which draws vertical lines on either side of the note." ( lilypond.org/doc/v2.21/Documentation/notation/… ) ?
    – Luuk
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 12:55
  • I think I figured it out, though I will wait for an intelligent person's answer to confirm this: the hollow note is a drone note, which is to be held by a particular party until another such note is encountered. The lyrics should be sung simultaneously by this party, though on a single note. Plausible?
    – GPWR
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 12:40

2 Answers 2


This is a modern innovation. In the first instance, it indicates a note that appears in some verses only, depending on the number of syllables in the verse. In the second instance, as you have surmised, it indicates the drone pitches.

  • 1
    Is there a good website or other resource for more information?
    – Aaron
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 15:31
  • @Aaron I'm looking. I haven't found one.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 15:40
  • Despite the lack of references, I'm marking this as the solution because it just makes a whole lot of sense. In the first instance, it didn't make sense that the hollow punctum should represent a drone note, given the context. Now I see that it has a double meaning. Thx.
    – GPWR
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 21:04

The use of the hollow note as a drone is an innovation as far as I can tell, which is what it is, but the standard usage is for any additional syllables to be sung (usually in psalmody or the various litanies) that aren't necessarily reflected in the first verse (of the psalm) or first invocation (of a litany).

One of the classic studies in the notation of Solesmes and its interpretation would be the Applied Course in Gregorian Chant (PDF). Psalmody is discussed at p. 137ff. (the pages are those of the book from the TOC, not the PDF).

  • 1
    Thanks for this additional answer. That clarifies it up even more. For those interested, it's on page 142 of the provided PDF.
    – GPWR
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 0:35

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