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.
Brian Trumble is an English teacher and lifelong writer. He plays saxophone, bassoon, and piano and is excited to partner with Plum Rose Publishing to teach and lead the next generation of musicians!