I'm transcribing a book of 18th Century music and have come across several instances of the notation shown in the image. A few fellow musicians I've asked, and the online Dolmetsch guide to musical symbols, all draw a blank.

It's from a book of dance tunes 'for the violin or the German flute', and the marking is definitely printed in the original, e.g. not written in later by hand by the book's owner.

Anyone?enter image description here

Edit: The image doesn't seem to be showing up for me at least. The symbol is directly above the note and looks like an equals = sign, only tilted at about 30 degrees (right end higher than left end). It's definitely a double line, not a tenuto.

Edit: Thanks for thoughts so far. Here's an image of the context. Note that a few bars later there's a tr trill marking!

enter image description here

  • This is really interesting! Could you add an example in context, i.e. where is was used within a line of music? – Chris Oct 17 '14 at 11:57
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    If it's English music, it's probably a trill: books.google.fi/… – nonpop Oct 17 '14 at 13:05
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    Obviously that's so the rest of the line will be ignored by the c-compiler :-) . OK, ok, my bet's on a mordent, only because that would seem to fit the date and style of this sample. – Carl Witthoft Oct 17 '14 at 18:10
  • Do you have any other editions of the same piece to compare it to? – Charles Oct 17 '14 at 21:09
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    OFF @CarlWitthoft watch out for C compilers that do not support C++-style comments ;) – törzsmókus Oct 18 '14 at 9:22

I believe the symbol is an Italian notation, referred to as 'Mordente' - although not always the mordent as we know it! It was commonly used 1710-1760, which fits the time period you specified.

How to play it seems to vary according to who wrote it, but one of the most 'defined' examples was from Geminiani's 1748/51 ornament tables, where it was specified like this:

Italian Mordent

So here, essentially a downwards trill.

The source states that various composers also used this to denote a standard trill - however, given the tr markings also on the music, I'd suggest this example was to be played as above. (Although perhaps you might be able to provide more insight, knowing the composer of your music!)

Apparantly, there are also various variations!

Mordent Variations

Source: Frederick Neumann's Ornamentation in Baroque and Post-baroque Music: With Special Emphasis on J.S. Bach. [link]

  • That makes a lot of sense. There's another tune later in the same collection that has the same marking and a quick downward trill there fits perfectly. Thanks to all! – Steve M Oct 18 '14 at 10:38
  • Intuitively I would of thought that // meant an upwards trill whereas \\ meant a downwards trill. – Ali Caglayan Oct 18 '14 at 14:51

Having looked through all my resources, and failed to find it, I'd hazard a guess that it's a tremolo sign, with the note being bowed rapidly back and forth.Although that's not easy on a flute ! It actually shows up in a similar manner, but with the marks on the stem, as tremolo, for violin.

Could also be a 'ceasura' - a brief silent pause, where timing isn't counted. But surely that wouldn't be over a crotchet, or any other note.


I might have it: in Finale music notation software, they include this symbol. According to the manual its a caesura. Don't know if it fits with the context, but that's the closest I could find.

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    It doesn't make any sense that it's a caesura, which is used to indicate a significant pause in the music and would appear after a note rather than above it. – Pat Muchmore Oct 17 '14 at 20:59
  • Right.. I'm better at internet sleuthing than I am at reading classical scores, so I could be wrong. Searching Google Image for "Caesura," the first result is familiar (also Wikipedia), though it's on the staff not above. – Charles Oct 17 '14 at 21:00
  • Printing error possibly? – Charles Oct 17 '14 at 21:08
  • You appear to be CORRECT. A caesura matches the appearance very well, and the pause may occur on the note (as with a fermata) and we don't know whether the sample provided is taken from the book or duplicated. – Epanoui Oct 18 '14 at 2:29
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    @WankyMcSpanky a caesura NEVER goes over a note. "caesurae are located between notes or measures (before or over bar lines), rather than on notes or rests (as with a fermata)."- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesura – Dom Oct 18 '14 at 17:03

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