Here's a snippet from a 1624 facsimile of Juan Arañés' "Libro Segundo de Tonos y Villancicos".

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This is a rather syncopated, lively song, with a time signature of C3.

Note values seem to be indicated only by the stems, and my guess is that the filled noteheads indicate duple meter, while the hollow noteheads indicate triple meter.

This works well until the next-to-last measure, which is clearly triple but uses filled noteheads.

Question: Is my guess about filled vs hollow noteheads correct? If so, is the next-to-last measure just an error? (Note also the missing dot in the first measure on the second line).

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    I assume this 3/2 time and the rhombic black are whole notes while the dots are quarters and the white notes are half notes. This book may help you further: page 213 ff, 239, 259. riunet.upv.es/bitstream/handle/10251/86138/… Commented May 23, 2019 at 18:45
  • Ala vida bona: soundcloud.com/albertosanna/a-la-vida-bona. Great music! Commented May 23, 2019 at 18:52
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    @AlbrechtHügli No, the durations are indicated by the stem vs no stem vs flag. If the stem is 1 beat the no-stem is 2 and the flag is 1/2 beat. Commented May 23, 2019 at 20:42
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    @AlbrechtHügli Thanks for the reference to the doctoral dissertation. On page 28 I found this discussing the difficulties of interpreting the printed edition "... así como relativos al uso “incorrecto” de los ennegrecimientos de la notación ocasionados por síncopas o hemiolas en los compases ternarios" which I translate as "... as well as relative to the "incorrect" usage of blackening (i.e. filling-in) of the notation caused by syncopation or hemiolas in ternary (i.e. triple meter) phrases". So it looks like my guess was correct about the filled note heads. Commented May 23, 2019 at 21:11
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    @AlbrechtHügli If you'll post a summary of the above comments, highlighting the link to the dissertation, as an answer, I'll accept it. It's more information than I ever though I could find. I'm grateful for your help. Commented May 24, 2019 at 4:46

1 Answer 1


The concept of having even measures is more modern than Renaissance and Baroque music notation. The melody dictates how the music is divided on the page, not the time signature. Therefore it is very common to find seemingly "incomplete" measures. Composers of that era did not place a new time signature at each change the way we do today.

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