Learning Piazzolla's Tristón for solo guitar, I came across this symbol for up bow/strum at the end of two measures, not linked to any beat. What does it represent?

Maybe it's worth noting they both precede changes in dynamics (the first one comes before a change to p and the second one before a change to pp)

excerpt measures from Astor Piazzolla's Tristón for solo guitar

  • Interesting. Could you add the following bar for each occurence? Dec 23, 2017 at 12:07
  • Sure! I have edited the question to include the following measure in each occurence.
    – Gabriel G
    Dec 23, 2017 at 12:19
  • 1
    Hm. I'd interpret it as an oddly written breathing mark or small fermata, but that's pretty much just a guess. Dec 23, 2017 at 12:29

1 Answer 1


I'm struggling to find any kind of source to back me up, but I have seen this kind of thing before. It's equivalent to a breath mark, indicating a short break to let the sound clear and the phrase reset.

Why use the up bow/strum instead of the typical "," breath mark? I can't say for certain, but I can offer some guesses:

  • Some people might view the breath mark as a literal indication to breathe, which of course does nothing on guitar.
  • The breath mark can sometimes imply a slight break in tempo, whereas a bowing/strumming indication never does.
  • Bowing/strumming indications are commonly used to force particular phrasing. In this case, even though strum direction is pretty much irrelevant, it could still be interpreted as an instruction to raise the hand in preparation of the next phrase, which implies a small break.

I consider it an abuse of notation, but a pretty minor one.

  • After listening to a recording of the piece I feel this is it, even if it is very subtle.
    – Gabriel G
    Dec 23, 2017 at 22:45
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    I think the ‘v’ sign is a fairly common alternative to a comma for a breath mark. (It's what I write on vocal music, as it can be more obvious!) Lilypond, for example, lists it as a variation (along with dash and double-stroke): lilypond.org/doc/v2.18/Documentation/snippets/…
    – gidds
    Mar 25, 2019 at 11:13

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