In a Daquin pipe organ piece, "Noël «Suisse»" from his "Livre de Noëls", I see this notation in the Right Hand system:

measures 1 and 2 of Daquin's "Noël «Suisse»"

This is notated this way in the Oxford Book of Christmas Organ Music. How should I play the chord that has a "+" sign under it?

  • This isn't organ related? (organ tag was removed) – Dave Nov 25 '14 at 2:50
  • Not unless the notation is specific to organ. – Richard Nov 25 '14 at 2:51
  • I figured that since this piece is arranged for organ, and since some of the answers indicate that for some instruments there is a (potentially) different interpretation, it would be useful to include the organ tag. – Dave Nov 25 '14 at 2:53
  • Yeah good point, I added it back in – Richard Nov 25 '14 at 2:55
  • What's up with your display name? It's exactly the same as the one from another user. May I suggest you changing it, please? – Maika Sakuranomiya Feb 28 at 13:40

I found the below footnote in a transcription on IMSLP:


It translates:

I think that one could play the + sign, as a 'pinched' lower mordent.

Where this is first notated, it applies to the sign above a single note in the right hand, however, there are further places where the same notation is used on chords, and below the notes, without further comment from the transcriber, so I'd imagine the same still stands in these cases. (I'd also say it fits with the style of the music, and isn't impossible to play, no?)

This transcription is an extract from "Archives des Maitres de l'Orgue" (Archives of the masters of the organ) - written by Alex Guilmant (The annotator) and A. Pirro. It is dated 1903.


  • The piece is "Noël «Suisse»" - and thank you, this does seem to be the consensus so far... – Richard Nov 25 '14 at 2:56
  • @Richard Great, that's in the suite this footnote was from. Thanks! – Chris Nov 25 '14 at 9:29
  • @Richard. I can confirm this. I've got the Noël «Suisse» and (though I haven't got the score in front of me) play a lower mordant on the C, in the part shown in your question. – Benjol Sep 7 '16 at 7:03

Check this out.

Thumbing is the act of playing with one or both thumbs on the keyboard below the keyboard on which the rest of fingers are playing. This technique was developed in the late 19th century, and fell out of use after 1930. While at first an organist not used to this technique will only be able to use it to play isolated sustained pitches, organists accustomed to this technique are capable of playing moving lines, although the speed possible is less than that of using all five fingers. A composer who wants to use this technique would be wise to spend some time at an organ console to find out what is physically possible as far as the reach of a hand. Failing that, a composer should refer to a piano keyboard to verify that the requested hand positions are comfortably possible. When notating a passage using this technique, one should place the notes to be thumbed on a separate staff between the "right hand" and "left hand" staves. One should also mark the notes to be thumbed with a "+" symbol.

  • 1
    As interesting as this is, Daquin was active mid-18th century - I wouldn't have said the time periods really fit. – Chris Nov 24 '14 at 16:40
  • I expect that it's either pedagogical or whoever transcribed it wasn't thinking about time periods. – zomgdavidbowie Nov 24 '14 at 16:43
  • While that is a good lead, I do not think it is the answer in this case because of the time period problem @Chris mentioned and also that the passage is actually supposed to be played all on one manual, the Poositiv. – Richard Nov 24 '14 at 17:00
  • @Richard - can you add more details to the question? What the piece actually is, the publication you have, more context than just the two bars etc? Thanks! – Chris Nov 24 '14 at 17:01
  • Hm. Another thought Not a terribly reliable source, but a user named Sathrandur on this forum states that it could be old notation designating a trill. Not sure how that'd work in this context, though. – zomgdavidbowie Nov 24 '14 at 17:17

This page is useful http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_musical_symbols#Articulation_marks It says:

Left-hand pizzicato or Stopped note

A note on a stringed instrument where the string is plucked with the left hand (the hand that usually stops the strings) rather than bowed. On the horn, this accent indicates a "stopped note" (a note played with the stopping hand shoved further into the bell of the horn). In percussion notation this denotes, among many other specific uses, that the hi-hat is to be closed by pressing the pedal or that an instrument is to be "choked" (silenced by causing vibrations to cease).

I hope it makes sense in the context!

  • In some musical pieces since around 1980 the sign is used to indicate a stopped or muted note on the piano -- place a finger near the pegs on the strings to be struck. It creates a muted sound. I've never seen it used for pizz. on a piano. In this older example, however, the accepted answer is the correct interpretation. – Michael Scott Cuthbert Nov 29 '14 at 22:41

I have several recordings of the Noels and don't remember anything special here. In the second bar (the piece starts with your given bars, doesn't it?) it is not striking to be the standard symbol for an unspecified ornamentation. I observe however, that both systems being in the treble clef, on a one-manual instrument the right hand has to give way to the left, so it can use the same keys.

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