Articulation in Music


In this post we will look into the meaning of articulation in music. Before we look at a definition, here’s an analogy: When an actor reads his lines he must speak in a way that well represents the meaning of the text. If the text is sad, let’s say a death scene, then he should speak in a sorrowful voice. It would be mighty strange to speak in a bright and cheerful voice if one’s family had just died. In music, musicians control sound much in the same way as actors control the mood, atmosphere, and tone of their voice while delivering text.



Accents symbol and curved lines placed around or above music notes that change the way they sound and relate to each other is a concept called “articulation.” 

Articulation in music point out to the way an individual note or group of notes should sound and be performed. There are numerous marks to show articulation in music, though some are only being used for specific instruments. Directions for use of the sustaining pedal on the piano is an example. Other signs have a more general use. A dot placed over or under the head of a note indicates it should be played staccato, as short as possible. The slur marking is a curved line written above or below the heads of a group of notes, showing these pitches should be played smoothly. Slurs are commonly used in vocal music, but they are also used for bowing instructions of stringed instruments. The curved line is similar to that of the phrase, but is usually applied to a much smaller group of notes.


Types of Articulation

It’s very difficult to talk about articulation without exploring the wide range of types of articulation used. Although I can go in depth into every type a brief description of the differences in articulation may help with your understanding of the meaning.
Some common articulation markings are: 

Slur

A slur is a curved line sweeping over two or more note-heads. Under the slur, notes run smoothly, duration 100%. A slur is a symbol in Western musical notation indicating that the notes it embraces are to be played without separation. They are naturally articulated with the first note accented and long, the last note short and soft. One slur above another is the same as two slurs under one. The slur is the comma, breath mark in the score. This implies legato articulation.


Legato

Legato is used both in music performance and notation. The term legato is for “tied together” in Italian and it indicates that musical notes are to be played or sung smoothly and connected. Legato connects two or more different notes (note of different pitch). In piano music, the individual notes must be struck and play, but there should be no audible spaces between them.

Legato is used both in music performance and notation. The term legato is for “tied together” in Italian and it indicates that musical notes are to be played or sung smoothly and connected.



Staccato

Staccato is a form of musical articulation represented with a small dot written above or below a note that makes it brief in duration. The term staccato is for “detached” in Italian. Do not mixed staccato up with dot on dotted note, a rhythm dot, which is written after a note-head. It is a form of musical articulation. In modern notation staccato signifies a note of shortened duration, separated from the note that may follow by silence.

Staccato is a form of musical articulation represented with a small dot written above or below a note that makes it brief in duration. The term staccato is for “detached” in Italian.


In Jazz, a dot staccato crotchet is the same as an unarticulated quaver followed by a quaver rest. Jazz musicians always prefer the staccato crotchet notation. In symphonic music a dotted crotchet may not be the same as an unarticulated quaver - quaver rest. Check the instrumentation first. Some symphonic players prefer the quaver - quaver rest notation. 

Staccatissimo

Staccatissimo is a small wedge or straight comma above a note that creates an exaggerated staccato; that is a very brief note. Staccatissimo is also an indication to play with an exaggerated staccato; to keep notes very detached in a brief manners.


Marcato

Marcato in a non-formal term is simply referred to as an “accent”.  A marcato articulation makes a note slightly more pronounced than surrounding notes.


Sforzando (or sforzato or forzando or forzato)

Sforzando is a musical articulation that indicates a forceful accent and is abbreviated as sf, sfz or fz. Sforzando makes a note remarkably louder than the surrounding notes. When just a single note is affected, the abbreviation used is sfz.
* Sforzando is also considered a dynamics command.


Fermata

Fermata is an articulation mark in music that allows a note or chord to be held for as long as desired. A fermata may also be considered to be a tempo command. A fermata is written upside down below the staff if it affects a lower plane of action If a fermata is written over a bar line, there will be a pause between the measures.

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