What is the name and utility of the half-moon symbol on top of the last note?

Staff notation with a symbol above a note.  The symbol is an arc with a dot in the centre.


3 Answers 3


The symbol over the note (which can also be below a note, upside down) is called a fermata, and nowadays it has become a standard indication of a pause*. This means that the performed duration of the note (or a rest associated with the fermata) will be longer than the notation indicates.

Say for example, if it's above a quarter note then the duration of the quarter note could be as long as a half note (i.e. twice the duration). Basically the music takes a pause here in the sense that it does not move forward for a short while and lingers on a note. How long it should linger is subjective.

How long this pause should be, although a matter of personal discretion, should still not be exaggerated. If the composer truly wanted a long pause they could've simply notated lunga pausa.

In the example in the photo below, the regular beat is abandoned altogether and the fermata takes up the duration of thrice its nominal value. (i.e. the notes are sustained up till the rest).

fermata example

* Note that in the baroque era the fermata sign was used to merely show an important structural point, e.g. the end of a section in the music.

  • Is the music in the photo by any chance from a Haydn piano sonata?
    – 11684
    Jul 11, 2015 at 14:26
  • nope, Beethoven's Piano Sonata in Eb. Why'd you guess Haydn though? similar bit in his sonata? Jul 15, 2015 at 15:24
  • The coloratura in this Haydn sonata is somewhat similar, so I thought it might be a different version, since these coloraturas were often improvised. I should have noted the opus number, Haydn's opus 27 is (as far as I can tell) a piano trio.
    – 11684
    Jul 15, 2015 at 15:33
  • Which seems quite improbable after comparing the ending and beginning of the two.
    – 11684
    Jul 15, 2015 at 15:34

That's a fermata, indicating to rest on this note longer than its nominal value.


It's a fermata, which means pause; that last note should be slightly held.

  • This duplicates the answer left 20 minutes prior without adding additional information.
    – Aaron
    Nov 28, 2023 at 16:18

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