I am seeing notes surrounded by two vertical bars that I cannot interpret (see the first notes in the treble and bass below). I have checked the liner and Google/Wikipedia for ideas but cannot find a good explanation. Any help would appreciated.

These are from an Isidor Phillip finger exercise.


  • 2
    The note shown in the duplicate is just a variant of the note in question here. There is also a more square version, as seen in Meaning of a box-like symbol, sometimes with a line through it.
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 6:07
  • @Aaron - I guess its a variation of the first reference. So it appears that its a double whole note (8 beats). Thank you for the references.
    – Tommie C.
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 6:22

1 Answer 1


Those notes are breves (double whole notes). A breve has twice the value of a semibreve (whole note), four times the value of a minim (half note), or eight times the value of a crotchet (quarter note). A breve will completely fill a bar of 8/4.

Theses aren't seen very often anymore because they are too long to fit into measures with the time signatures that are commonly used today.

  • If you are in tempus imperfectus, yes. But you left out: "... half the value of a longa, or quarter the value of a maxima" (assuming modus imperfectus and maximodus imperfectus). Now, these are things you rarely see today ...
    – Lazy
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 10:00
  • @Lazy tempus imperfectum, yes. But I think that that's reasonable given the time signature. Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 10:44

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