Maxima (music)

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A white-mensural maxima with stem facing down.
Notation for a rest of the value of a maxima, i.e., two adjacent longa rests.

A maxima, duplex longa, or larga (in British usage: large) was a musical note used commonly in thirteenth and fourteenth century music and occasionally until the end of the sixteenth century. It was usually twice or, rarely, three times (Stoessel 2009, 181) as long as a longa, four or six or nine times as long as a breve, and 8, 12, 18, or 27 times as long as a semibreve (whole note). Like the stem of the longa, the stem of the maxima generally pointed downwards except occasionally when it appeared on the bottom line or space. Before around 1430, the maxima was written with a solid, black body. Over the course of the fifteenth century, like most other note values, the head of the maxima became void (Apel 1961, 87).

In most early sources the duplex longa has twice the body of a longa, but before 1250 there is often no clear difference of shape and the presence of the duplex longa is instead merely suggested by a greater distance between the notes in the tenor (in score notation), caused by the greater number of notes in the upper parts (Apel 1961, 224, 245). See Mensural notation for examples.

The name for this note in European languages is derived from two of the three Latin names, either maxima or larga. (On "larga" as a term, see Johannes Verulus de Anagnia 1977, 30-31 : "Nomina vero ipsarum sunt haec, scilicet larga, longa, brevis, semibrevis et minima".)

Language note name
Basque maxima
Dutch maxima
English large
German Maxima
Italian massima
Norwegian maxima
Portuguese máxima
Russian Массима
Spanish máxima
Swedish maxima
Latin maxima, duplex longa, or larga


  • Apel, Willi. 1961. The Notation of Polyphonic Music 900–1600, fifth edition, revised and with commentary. The Medieval Academy of America Publication no. 38. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Medieval Academy of America.
  • Johannes Verulus de Anagnia. 1977. Liber de musica Iohannis Vetuli de Anagnia, edited by Frederick Hammond. Corpus Scriptorum de Musica 27, 26-97. Neuhausen-Stuttgart: American Institute of Musicology.
  • Morehen, John, and Richard Rastall. 2001. "Note Values". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Stoessel, Jason. 2009. "The Interpretation of Unusual Mensuration Signs in the Notation of the Ars subtilior". In A late Medieval Songbook and its Context: New Perspectives on the Chantilly Codex (Bibliothèque du Château de Chantilly, Ms. 564), edited by Yolanda Plumley and Anne Stone, 179–202. Turnhout: Brepols.