Breve Encounter

Music notation symbols, fonts, font sources and font creation, SmuFL.
Post Reply
Posts: 662
Joined: 11 Apr 2016, 19:42

Breve Encounter

Post by benwiggy »

I've been obsessing too much over the shape of rectangular breves recently. I use them in a lot of 17th-century music, where they are more in-keeping than the "Tie-fighter" winged-semibreve style. This music frequently has an organ part, which can have chords of rectangular breves. There is a danger that these notes can look like a 'ladder', where you can't tell which are the notes and which is the gap between them.

Here are some breve chords in an array of fonts.
Breves.png (96.93 KiB) Viewed 575 times
Traditionally, triads of breves would have the middle note offset, to avoid the 'ladder' effect. However, it's still a problem for intervals of a fourth.

Firstly, some thoughts on shape. Maestro (and several other fonts that I've checked but not included here) go for a very crude approximation, just using straight lines. The ladder effect is at its worst here. The extending 'legs' are far too long, IMO.

Bravura comes with a Large and Small size: the Large size certainly avoids any doubt in the interval of a fourth.

Abraham Lee's Scorlatti (based on Score, I understand) has a comparatively small breve, which gives a clear gap on the fourth. Leipzig is similar, but with slightly longer bars. It's nice if the triad appears with one joined up line; but obviously if that happens, then the same is true for the dyad on a fourth, which is less desirable.

I've aimed for a similar size to Scorlatti and Leipzig with Sebastian, but tried to make more contrast between the breves and 'gap between breves'. Interestingly, Opus is similar in thickness and height to Sebastian, but is much wider. And for some reason, three of its legs are tapered and one is not.

November2 is a little disappointing: the ladder effect is quite strong here. Wess's Vintage GHMA is a little blocky: I suspect something of the same dimensions but with more contrast -- thicker horizontals and thinner verticals -- might be really nice.

Anyway, I welcome your thoughts, and if you've got any nice exemplars of rectangular breves in chords, do post them here!

User avatar
Dan Kreider
Posts: 68
Joined: 24 Feb 2020, 19:59

Re: Breve Encounter

Post by Dan Kreider »

Not much to add except that Sebastian handles this best of any of them, IMO. And I forgot how much I like Vintage...

Post Reply