Slashed 3 in figured bass?

Is it possible to display a slashed 3 instead of # or #3 or 3# with the Figured bass feature? There does not seem to be a slot for that in Bravura.


No, this isn’t possible. Can you say a bit more about where this convention comes from?

A slash through the figure instead of a sharp or natural is a standard convention in figured bass:

" 3. An oblique line through a number (mostly through 4 and 5)…means a semitone raising of the interval so marked." Hermann Keller in Thoroughbass Method

See also Figured bass - Wikipedia under “Accidentals”

I would say that it’s not a wide-spread convention for thirds, but you find it now and then. In this particular case in a trio sonata by JH Roman (1694–1758).
It is always in this context, of 4 to 3. But of course there is no consistency – he uses 4 to #3 also.

This really is no big deal. I will go for the #3 and mention it in the commentary.

John, I’m quite well aware that slashes through figures are a standard convention in figured bass, and indeed Dorico supports this to a quite comprehensive degree. What I’ve never seen in my own limited experience of perusing figured bass in the literature is a slashed 3, hence I was asking for some further clarification about where and when it is used.

@LAE, thanks for providing the example from Roman’s manuscript. Is this a convention that he used often in his music? How is it normally reproduced in published editions of his work?

Daniel is correct! The use of slashed 3’s is exceedingly rare - I can’t off the top of my head think of any composer - or notational style - who does this. But, @LAE, if there are more examples in addition to the isolated one from J.H.Roman above, please do share them.
I think the explanation is straightforward: As @John_Ruggero points out above, slashed figures are used for alterations, i.e. diminished or augmented intervals, but, according to harmonic thinking in the figured bass era, this never applies to the third which can only be major or minor. And b or # - significantly, frequently without the figure 3 - take care of that.
Having the slashed 3 as an engraving option is, in my opinion, unnecessary. FWIW, Figurato does not provide this option either.

Sofar I have (as far as I remember) only noticed it in two autograph volumes with trio sonatas. To my knowledge there are no “official” published editions of these works (this is about to change…!), so I don’t know.

I really can’t think of any other cases or composers. In Roman’s case it is mostly with 4-3 alone, but occasionally with other figures around as well –
…but never alone.

According to the manual Figurato does actually have the slashed 3, but I have no experience using it:

Florian was exceptionally thorough when he made Figurato, whereas the glyphs that we chose to encode for SMuFL were based on a (obviously non-exhaustive) survey of the literature and of various texts that cover figured bass. We never saw a slashed 3, so we didn’t include it in SMuFL!

The First Rule of Music Notation: “There’s always someone who does it differently.”


I’m sorry, Daniel. I misunderstood your initial comment.

It’s interesting that Johann Mattheson (quoted in F.T. Arnold’s well-known book on figured bass) shows slashes through all numbers except 3 and 8 in his table of signatures.

C.P.E. Bach places no apparent limitation on the use of slashes: “A stroke through a figure or a sharp next to it raises an interval a half tone…”. But later mentions that “The third may be indicated simply through the accidentals that alter or restore its normal size…” which corresponds to what one usually sees regarding 3.

Figurato doesn’t have a slashed 8, which is rarer still, but who knows when it might turn up?

Not referring to this specifically, but in general: In the short time I’ve started developing fonts, I can say these sorts of “fringe use cases” are the bane of developers’ existence. It’s often a significant development cost that may serve literally a handful of users. At some point, developers simply have to say, “Sorry, we won’t be adding that.”


Which is why it is necessary to have a mechanism by which the user can create their own unusual symbols.

…such as the Playing Techniques Editor.

…although in this case, one wonders if it didn’t take more time to decide to leave out the missing characters than to include them.

It’s not just a case of adding the character; it’s also a case of adding options for how and where it should be used. That comes with a development cost.