In our last blog about articulations in music, we explored detached staccato notes, fermata pauses, and legato slurs. In this blog, we will be looking at the less common of musical articulation notations.
Remember from last time that articulations in music are important in that they tell us how to read and play the music. They are an extension of the composer and knowing how to read them will help you play, read, or sing music more accurately.
Articulations in music are incredibly important to learn about because they are signs which show the composer’s intention for how a piece of music should be played, read, or sung. Ignoring articulation marks will change the nature of a piece of music entirely. Practice reading articulation markings in the music you play.
One thing you will often see when reading and playing music are articulations. Articulations in music are ways of showing how a set of notes should be played with respect to pitch, duration, or dynamic. One way to think about articulations in music is that they serve as a sort of punctuation in music. In the same way that punctuation in writing tells you whether a sentence is a statement – with a period – a question – with a question mark – or a loud exclamation – with an exclamation mark, articulations in music help us to read and play music. Articulations in music are important because they change the way we play or sing the music.
In this two-part blog series, we will explore all the articulations in music, starting with staccato.
Being one of the most common articulations in music, staccato is one of the musical articulations you’ll want to master quickly. Stacatto means (when translated) “short” or “detached” and is notated with a dot either above or below the note.
Stacatto notes are not held for the entire duration of the note but shortened to help detach it from the next note in line. Let’s look at an example.
In the example, you can see a series of notes. These notes are each notated with a staccato musical articulation. That means that each of these notes would be played shorter than their notated length.
Another common articulation in music is the slur also known as legato. Legato is a word which means “smooth” or “together”. Legato expressions tells us that notes should be played continuously together without any gap in the notes.
Legato phrasings are shown with a curved line we also call a phrase mark. Let’s look at an example.
In the image above, you can see that the phrase mark follows the quarter notes, showing that they should be played together smoothly.
Fermata is a word which translates to “pause” and is indicated with a dot and a crescent above the note. It can be seen as somewhat the opposite of staccato. This articulation in music shows that the note should be held longer than the time written in the music. Because of its special job, it is the only articulation mark in music which changes the beat of the song.
Next time on in our blog What Are Articulations in Music? Part 2 we will look at articulations in music such as Tenuto and Accents.
One word you may see when learning music is accidental. But what does this mean? In this article you will learn all about accidentals in music, how to use them, and how to recognize them.
Accidentals in Music Are No Accident
Unlike their name might suggest, accidentals in music are no accident. They are important when you want to learn how to read music.
An accidental in music is a note (or pitch) that is not part of the scale shown by the key signature. In this way, accidentals in music ignore key signature. Look at the picture below, and you can see the three types of accidentals; flat, natural, and sharp. Both the notes and the symbols are called accidentals.
When you see an accidental, it means that the note has been shifted by a semitone, or half-step.
In the example shown below, we are in the key of B-flat major. The key signature shows that there are two flats in the key, B-flat and E-flat. With the natural accidental applied to the note shown, it becomes a natural B instead of an B-flat. The note shifted one semitone from B-flat to B-natural.
Accidentals in Music Apply to the Whole Measure
One special rule to know about accidentals in music is that they apply to all notes in the measure (or bar). Let us look at an example!
In the picture below, you can see we are still in the key of B-flat major. There are four quarter-notes. The first note is a B-flat, as noted by the accidental. The fourth note is also a B-flat, because it is in the same measure. In the following measure, the note becomes B-flat again.
Double Accidentals in Music
Like you might think, a double accidental raises the pitch of a note by two semitones. Like normal accidentals, these notes ignore key signature and have their own special symbols. On the left is the double flat accidental and on the right is the double sharp accidental.
Did You Know? Music History
Accidentals in music are very old! Their use goes all the way back to before the Middle Ages, people were writing about music theory all the way back then! The first use of a double accidental was over 400 years ago in 1615.
Now you know all about accidentals in music from sharps, naturals, flats, and double accidentals, they are important tools for any musician to have.