image of a time signature which looks like a c and a backwards c

This just confuses me help would be appreciated

  • 6
    What piece is this? We may be able to find versions without this. Also posting a full measure will give us more information about the amount of notes per measure which will help us figure this out.
    – Dom
    Nov 29, 2018 at 20:06
  • I dont have the piece it was an image sent to me anonymously Nov 30, 2018 at 12:44
  • Possibly a (mis-)use of scribal notation for "contra" -something wikivisually.com/wiki/Scribal_abbreviation Nov 30, 2018 at 12:48

3 Answers 3


Looks like some strange double time signature from mensural notation.

Mensural notation was used from 13th century to circa 1600.

More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mensural_notation

I found this: http://lilypond.org/doc/v2.19/Documentation/notation/typesetting-mensural-music

There's a picture showing mensural time signatures:

enter image description here

Based on this: C = 4/4 (what a surprise) mirrored C = 4/8

The strange is that in mensural notation the cleffs, rests...etc would be drawn differently.

By the way it wouldn't be unique to see double time signature in music notation.

Tchaikovsky's String Quartet No. 2 in F major: enter image description here

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_signature

  • 1
    +1 It's great to see that some people still appreciate the value of cited sources on this site. However, would it be possible for you to offer some explanation of what is stated in your links? SE appreciates this explanation because links are not permanent, and if the links cease to function, the answer ceases to function as well, unless the text explains the content of the link. Great Answer!
    – user45266
    Nov 30, 2018 at 4:55
  • Since this piece is marked "Gigue", I doubt that it's earlier than the Baroque, and thus hardly in mensural notation. Nov 30, 2018 at 19:27
  • It could be an exception or a very rare "re-use" of a very old notation. But this is just my opinion.
    – atanii
    Dec 1, 2018 at 17:47
  • 1
    @user45266 Thank you. The first link is just history and in the second one there is a picture of mensural time signatures including the backward C. Even if the links cease the most important data will remain here. But I think the picture can be useful.
    – atanii
    Dec 1, 2018 at 17:50

Lilypond Manual has the mirrored C as mensural 4/8. So according to the example by @atanii this could mean to switch between 4/4 and 4/8 on a bar by bar basis. (If the strange combination is supposed to mean 4/4 plus 4/8, i. e. 12/8 instead should be recognizable from a full bar of notes.)


With no knowledge of what this actually means, let me suggest a fun idea to play this:

Play the piece in common time, then backwards in common time.

That would be a really funny way to write a piece, and I've heard it done to great effect, but as far as I know no one uses that symbol for that.

Still, I'd presume that this is somehow related to the common time time signature, which is a fancy way (or lazy way) of writing 4/4. Cut time, on the other hand, looks just like the common time sign (letter c for common), but has a vertical line through its center, as though it's been cut. Cut time refers to 2/2.

  • 1
    C doesn't actually stand for common...Like the fun idea though!
    – Tim
    Nov 30, 2018 at 8:09

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