Often in answers, I will find myself repeatedly writing a phrase like "the 7th scale degree". But there is a music theory shorthand notation for scale degrees: the number of the scale degree with a caret/hat/circumflex symbol above it.

What we can do currently (for example, with 7):

  • Type out: "7th scale degree"
  • Place a caret after the number: 7^ -- which looks awkward, and looks like an exponentiation symbol.
  • Use ˆ after the digit: 7ˆ, which is arguably slightly better than the caret.

Is there any way to combine the digit and the circumflex? After all, we have html entities for typesetting accidentals (♯, ♭, ♮), so why not scale degrees? At the very least, if we can't mimic the hat-notation in the literature, should we create our own community standard for notating scale degrees?

OTOH, would it even be desirable to have such a notation? It is used in Shenkerian analysis, at least, but I'm not sure how widespread its use is outside of that. Certainly beginners to this site would not know what it means.

Edit: Another possibility is using a combining circumflex, as Matthew Read suggests. Here is a screenshot of what that looks like in a freshly-updated-Chrome on my Windows 7 system:

enter image description here

It is similarly off-center in Firefox and IE, as well as Chrome on my android phone. I also experimented (in a trial post that I never submitted) with typing the circumflex after all seven digits -- which is similarly off-centered, but on the other side -- and with using other Combining Diacritics. The majority were similarly off-centered, especially those that are located above the main character.

  • I just want to note, I've never seen this notation before. There's a disclaimer on that which is the last time I studied music theory in an academic setting was 1996. I have music theory books around but they are all from the mid-90s and earlier, so if this is recent notation I wouldn't have seen it anyway. – Todd Wilcox Apr 15 '16 at 18:06
  • I would love to see functionality where this was possible. For what it's worth, my experience tells me that in academic texts (pre-publication), authors typically use the form ^7 with the circumflex before the integer. It would be great if something like &7; could result in a proper scale-degree caret above the given integer. – Richard Aug 9 '16 at 6:38

You need to use a combining circumflex accent, so it gets applied to the character:

̂7 turns into ̂7.


  • Meh... that feels like its what I should be doing, but it doesn't really look any better. It's still not above the number like it should be, although I've read that its appearance is browser- and font-dependent. – Caleb Hines Apr 9 '16 at 18:04
  • 2
    @CalebHines Your browser must not properly support Unicode. I'm using Chrome on Windows 8.1 and 10. – user28 Apr 9 '16 at 18:36
  • I've used Firefox, Chrome and IE on Windows 7, and also Chrome on my android phone. On all of them, the circumflex only half-ovelaps with the edge of the 7. – Caleb Hines Apr 9 '16 at 19:32
  • I've added a screenshot from Chrome to my question. – Caleb Hines Apr 9 '16 at 19:48
  • @CalebHines Maybe try following this and choose UTF-8? There's also this, and disabling DirectWrite in chrome://flags. – user28 Apr 9 '16 at 19:59
  • Haven't tried the other suggestions yet, but the "UTF-8" encoding ("Unicode" in Firefox) is already selected. – Caleb Hines Apr 9 '16 at 20:39

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