Alla breve

Alla breve
Examples of time signatures for alla breve.
Examples of time signatures for common time.

In music, alla breve [Italian: at the breve] (also sometimes called cut time or cut common time) refers to a musical meter notated by the time signature symbol cut time (a broken circle with a line through it), which is the equivalent of 2/2.[1] Alla breve is a "simple-duple meter with a half-note pulse".[2] Common time, notated with the time signature symbol common time, is the equivalent of 4/4.[3]


Modern usage

In contemporary usage alla breve suggests a fairly quick tempo. Thus, it is used frequently for military marches. From about 1600 to 1900 its usage with regard to tempo varied, so it cannot always be taken to mean a quick tempo.[3]

Historical usage

Prior to 1600 the term alla breve derives from the system of mensural or proportional notation (also called proportio dupla) in which note values (and their graphical shapes) were related by the ratio 2:1. In this context it means that the tactus or metrical pulse (now commonly referred to as the "beat") is switched from its normal place on the whole note (semibreve) to the double whole note (breve).[3]

Modern notation           Brevis and semibrevis - modern notation.jpg
White notation
(15th–16th cent.)          
Brevis and seimibrevis - 15th-16th centuries.jpg
Black notation
(13th–15th cent.)          
Brevis and seimibrevis - 13th-14th centuries.jpg

The use of the vertical line or stroke in a musical graphical symbol, as practiced in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and now referred to by the modern term of "cut time", did not always have the same meaning as alla breve. It sometimes had other functions, including non-mensural ones.[4]


The following is an example with the same rhythm notated in 2/2 versus 4/4:

Rhythm in 2/2 followed by the same rhythm notated in 4/4. Note there are more eighth and sixteenth notes in the 4/4 version versus eighth and quarter notes in the 2/2 version, one of the reasons 2/2 is typically easier to read at faster tempos[5].


  1. ^ Randel (2003), pp.33, 241.
  2. ^ Duckworth, William (2009). A Creative Approach to Music Fundamentals, p.38. ISBN 0-495-57220-9.
  3. ^ a b c Randel (2003), p.33
  4. ^ "Cut time" in Sadie (2001).
  5. ^ Schonbrun , Marc (2005). The Everything Reading Music Book, p.56. ISBN 1-59337-324-4.


  • Randel, Don Michael (2003). Harvard dictionary of music, fourth edition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-01163-5.
  • Sadie, Stanley; John Tyrrell, eds. (2001). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edition. NewYork: Grove's Dictionaries. ISBN 1-56159-239-0.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • alla breve — ⇒ALLA BREVE, loc. adv. MUS. [Dans la notat. blanche du Moy. Âge] Mesure alla breve. Mesure à deux temps formée d une brève (ou note carrée) valant quatre de nos blanches actuelles : • 1. La mesure à deux barré (2) se compose de deux demies… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Alla breve — Alla breve : locution italiennne indiquant une mesure à deux temps rapide, et qui se note pourtant avec une ronde ou blanche par temps. Elle n était guère d usage qu en Italie, et seulement dans la musique d église. La fugue pour orgue BWV… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Alla breve — Al la bre ve [It., according to the breve.] (Old Church Music) With one breve, or four minims, to measure, and sung faster like four crotchets; in quick common time; indicated in the time signature by ?. [1913 Webster] || …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • alla breve — [ä΄lä brā′vā] [It, according to the breve] [also in italics] Music 1. in 2/2 time: often used as a musical direction 2. 2/2 time, in which the half note receives the beat; cut time …   English World dictionary

  • Alla breve — (nämlich Misura, ital., in raschem Takt), Bezeichnung, daß ein Tonstück noch einmal so rasch, als die Noten eigentlich anzeigen, vorgetragen werden soll, also die Viertelnoten als Achtel etc. Man bezeichnet die Taktart mit 2/1 od. 2 od. C.… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Alla breve — (ital., Mus.), Bezeichnung eines Taktes, bei dem nicht Viertel, sondern Halbe geschlagen werden, Taktzeichen ein längsdurchstrichenes C ( ?) …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • alla breve — alla breve, nach kurzer Art; in der Musik Zweiteltakt, gewöhnlich schnelles Tempo …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Alla breve — Symbol:  alla breve (ital. = nach der brevis), Alla breve Takt ist eine Vortragsbezeichnung und bedeutet, dass im 2/2 (kleinen Alla breve ) oder 4/2 (großen Alla breve )Takt die halbe Note anstelle der Viertelnote zur Zählzeit wird, damit… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • alla breve — Symbol:  alla breve (italienisch: „nach (= gemäß) der brevis“, eingedeutscht auch Allabreve) ist eine Taktart in der Musik. Alla breve ist dabei Abkürzung für Tactus alla breve. Diese Schreibweise für den 2/2 Takt bezieht sich auf den… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • alla breve — ạl|la bre|ve [ital., aus ↑ alla u. breve = Doppeltaktnote] (Musik): im ↑ Alla breve Takt * * * ạlla brẹve   [italienisch], Musik: der 2/2 oder 4/2 Takt, in dem die halbe Note und nicht die Viertelnote als Schlag und Zählzeit gilt. Name… …   Universal-Lexikon

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