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date: 24 November 2020


  • Richard Rastall


As used in the notation of music, abbreviations fall into two main categories: modifications of normal note shapes, signs etc.; and verbal instructions that replace fully written-out music. Abbreviations are far more common in manuscript than in printed music.

Modified note shapes and other non-verbal signs usually represent repetitions of passages of music, varying in length from a single note to a large part of a movement. Other abbreviations of this type avoid such clumsy features of notation as leger lines. See ex.1, ex.2, ex.3, ex.4, ex.5, ex.6, ex.7, ex.8, ex.9, ex.10, ex.11.

Abbreviated verbal instructions are sometimes used in a score when instruments play in unison in orchestral music: the lines belonging to one instrument may be left blank in the score, the notes being replaced by an instruction such as col violini (‘with the violins’) or col basso (‘with the bass’). This often occurs when, for instance, first and second violins play in unison, the seconds having ...

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J. Wolf: Handbuch der Notationskunde (Leipzig, 1913-19/R)