I was looking through some sheet music when I came across a notehead that looked very odd. It looks like a whole note with two lines on both its sides. Here is an image of the notehead:


What is this type of notehead called, and what is its duration?

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    Xilpex, I thoroughly applaud your interest in learning everything music, but please: go to dolmetsch.com/musicalsymbols.htm . Read it. Study it. Download it. don't subject this site to another couple hundred "what is this symbol" question! Mar 25, 2019 at 12:48
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    @CarlWitthoft Seriously.. and the argument that SO wants to get its own answers to the top of Google results is ridiculous in this case. The site you linked is a far better resource for learning these symbols than this site could ever hope to be. There's simply nothing to discuss—the symbols mean what they mean. A simple reference is all a person ought to need.
    – user91988
    Mar 25, 2019 at 17:23

3 Answers 3


This is called a double whole note or breve.

Whereas a whole note is equivalent in duration to four quarter notes, a double whole note is equivalent to eight quarter notes.

We see it often in transcriptions of older music, where the half note is used as the beat value instead of the quarter note. Consider, for instance, this example from Palestrina; also make sure to check out the breve rest!

enter image description here

Note that some modern notation systems only write one bar on either side of the note, but it's still a double whole note.


Called a breve, it's twice as long as a semibreve - no surprise there! The semibreve is the usual full bar note these days, worth four crotchets.

The surprise is that the word 'breve' actually means short, which makes one wonder what long notes were like in the days of yore.

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    The breve was a half or a third (depending on the rhythmic mode) of a longa; see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longa_(music). There has been a sort of ‘inflation’ over the centuries, as note values came to represent longer and longer notes, and so composers had to use shorter and shorter note values to achieve the same effect. See music.stackexchange.com/questions/40487
    – gidds
    Mar 24, 2019 at 22:19

It's a double whole note, aka breve, and lasts twice as long as a whole note. Eg. in 4/4 it'd count for 2 measures - 8 quarter notes.

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