Question of the Month: Baroque music notations

I have two music questions, both having to do with 18th century music notation: 1. Quantz used two slash marks, or something like quotation marks, over some notes. It looks like some kind of accent. What is the name of this mark and what does it mean? 2. in Telemann’s engravings he used a mark like a little hook at the end of a line to indicate the first note on the next line. What is the name of this mark?

Thank you for contacting the Seattle Public Library. I’m writing in response to your question about music notation symbols used in Baroque music.

Without seeing the actual markings in your music it is difficult to determine exactly the marking that you describe in your Quantz piece. A single vertical stroke above usually indicates a kind of staccato, not necessarily a short staccato, and probably more stressed (accented) that a staccato. Quantz does mention two strokes above a note in the context of notating hemiolas in triple meters where the rhythm of two measures are combined and notated as a single measure. I suspect this latter use may explain what you describe.

The symbol placed at the end of a line to indicate the pitch of the first note on the next line is called custos (Latin), Wachte (German), guida (Italian), guidon (French) or ‘direct’ (English). Custodes were frequently used in music notation from the eleventh century until the eighteenth century.

I have attached a pdf with more detailed explanations, quotes and sources.

I hope this information answers your questions. If you have any follow up questions, please reply directly to this message if there is anything else we can help you with.

Got a stumper? Click on Ask a Librarian. It’s what we do.

One thought on “Question of the Month: Baroque music notations”

  1. Dear Librarian,
    Would you email me the pdf attachment to the 11/18 post of Baroque Music Notations? I’m a musician and very interested in the examples and references.
    Sincerely,

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