Today I came across an odd symbol in Béla Bartók's Microkosmos.

The symbol occurs in Book 1, Score 21, Measure 8, at the end of a phrasing slur. It looks like a vertical bar that crosses only the first 2 topmost lines of the staff and it's unmetered.

My wild guess is that is a kind of very brief, unmetered rest similar to the breath mark in vocal music ...

What it is and how can I write it in Lilypond ?

Many thanks.

Strange music symbol

PS: Yes caesura is also what I was thinking of but AFAIK is more of undetermined length rather than brief. And my guess (again :) is that the intent was for a brief separation between the expressions. Thanks for the replies :)


5 Answers 5


The book Bartók's Mikrokosmos: Genesis, Pedagogy, and Style, says the following about it:

Ch 6, Nos 18-21:

The separating sign | indicates the interruption of legato between phrases.

Ch 4, Bartók's definitions about musicianship:

Phrasing. Curved (slur marks) are used to indicate legato, and they also mark the phrasing. Legato phrases are not to be separated where the curved lines meet, unless they are marked with separating signs. Legato phrases can be emphasized, however, by beginning them with a slight dynamic shading. When two slurs meet at one note, the phrasing begins and ends at that note.

The separating sign | (a superscript vertical line) indicates the interruption of legato between phrases. The last note of the phrase preceding the sign should be played staccato or otherwise shortened. The separating sing ’ (a superscript comma) also indicates the interruption of legato. In this case it means a slight almost unnoticeable pause in which the time of separation is taken equally from the notes preceding and following the comma.


Maybe the command \divisioMinima shown for Gregorian chant notation would be a hack for you.

enter image description here

I have not checked, if it can be followed by a bar.

Same thing but other notation would be f1 \bar "'" g1 which yields:

enter image description here

However, this both are bar lines which could confuse your lilypond interpreter. If you are not checking the bar length, it should not be a problem.

A last very hackish idea would be, to set a high note, lets say b''4 and to hide its head. This will result in just a line. The command is \hide NoteHead and you can get more inspiration here.

For the meaning of this sign: I don't have any reference and I don't play piano but on vibes or marimba I would have interpreted this as:

Make a break by taking your fingers away from the keys, or by releasing the pedal. Don't get slower but give it a breath. (Just my personal guess)


I was also thinking of some variation of a breath mark.


Using standard breath mark:**

Breath mark

c2. \breathe d4

Using a tick as the breath mark symbol:

Using a tick as the breath mark symbol

\relative c'' { c2 \override BreathingSign.text = \markup { \musicglyph #"scripts.rvarcomma" } \breathe d2 }


I suspect that this is a caesura, which is usually notated in the following way:


A caesura is a brief, unmeasured pause in the flow of the music. Although I am not certain, the fact that it appears in both staves and that it occurs right after a very long phrase and at the end of the measure, makes it seem likely to be a caesura.

The caesura is probably located in a breath or articulation menu in Sibelius 7.

edit: The caesura is located under symbols > common > caesura. A thick caesura is also available.


The meaning of this (phrase separation) symbol is explained by xvan's answer.

To get this symbol in LilyPond, make a modified breath mark macro:

%% Phrase Separation
phraseSeparation = {
    \once\override BreathingSign.Y-offset = #0.7
    \once\override BreathingSign.font-size = #3
    \once\override BreathingSign.text = "|"

and use it like this:

a'2-> c''4 |
b'2.\) \phraseSeparation |
e''4\( d'' e''\) |

output will look like this: excerpt with phrase separation mark

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