This is part of Hasse's "Mea Tormenta, Properate":
3 staves of handwritten music
Figure 1. 3 staves of handwritten music. The top staff is in treble clef and the key of B flat. The second staff is also in treble clef and in the same key. It has no notes and just contains a caesura/simile like symbol (which looks like a pair of parallel diagonal lines) in the middle of the staff. The third staff is in alto clef in the same key. This staff contains a symbol that's like a backwards "c", two parallel lines, and a small "s". The center of the symbol is on the second line of the staff.

I think the symbol on the second staff is some sort of repeat sign, from the research I've been able to do, but I have no idea what the one on the third staff is for. I can provide more musical context if that's necessary.

The second staff is a violin part and the third staff is a viola part, if that's helpful too.

1 Answer 1


These are both shorthand notations that refer to music occurring simultaneously in other staves.

The first notation (the slashes) simply tell the performer to "do exactly what the other violins (the staff above you) are doing." This is especially clear when you consider, for instance, the following two portions of the score:

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This is just a practical measure to prevent the engraver from writing out the same music twice. Instead, the engraver uses this symbol and only needs to write the music when it diverges from that in the staff above.

As for the second symbol, it's just a bass clef (It's upside down compared to modern standards, but it's a bass clef nevertheless; compare it to the bass clef throughout the rest of the score.) It markes a temporary change into bass clef from the prevailing alto clef, and although I've actually never seen this particular notation before, it seems to tell the performer to "do what the continuo is doing" (albeit an octave higher). This is made clear in the excerpts below by the fact that the middle staff begins this notated portion on the C an octave above the continuo and ends it on the E♭ an octave above.

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  • 2
    That is interesting about the implicit "follow the line" in the third staff. Side note - some orchestral music will mark a given staff "Cello and Bass" with the understanding that they'll sound an octave apart. Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 13:14
  • I think the bass clef is just upside-down, not backwards. Also, I think that's a stylized alto clef at the beginning of the system, so the bass clef symbol is there to indicate a change of clef. I'm talking about the third staff, with what looks like a double-barred H followed by a single flat. The alto clef indicates that the third line is C, which corresponds with the single flat (Bb) on the space below it.
    – shoover
    Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 15:29
  • @shoover Good call on the upside down vs. backwards; I'll change that soon, you're completely correct! And we agree that the third system is an alto clef, but perhaps I'll make that more clear in an edit.
    – Richard
    Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 15:33
  • On notes which have their stems point down, why is the stem on the wrong place?
    – Vighnesh
    Commented Dec 23, 2023 at 14:38
  • @Vighnesh You see this a lot in manuscript scores well into the late-nineteenth century. It's just what they did.
    – Richard
    Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 6:30

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