Legato

What Is Legato? 
'Legato, legato.' Anyone who has ever played in an orchestra, taken music lessons, observed a rehearsal or even watched a movie or TV show about music will have heard this term, commonly used by conductors and teachers. But what does it mean? It comes from the Italian word 'legare', which means to tie or bind. In other words, to connect or join together. In a musical sense, it signifies music that is played or sung without any space or interruption between the notes. 





Legato is both a technique of playing or singing and a style or interpretation of the music being performed, and it has evolved into the gold standard of musical performance today.

The Legato Technique
Legato has a different association depending on what kind of musician you are.

To a wind player, it means using a steadiness of air flow with minimal interruption from the fingers or mouth.
To a string player, it means smoothly drawing the bow over the string, playing as many notes as possible in one bow and changing the direction of the bow with a flexible motion of the wrist so as not to stop the motion.

For singers, legato means not only keeping a constant air flow, but also singing long vowels and carrying over the articulation of the final consonants into the beginning of the next word so as to best connect one note to another. It also involves making sure the vowels match. All a's, o's, e's etc. must sound alike. If one of them is slightly different it will cause a change in color and sound out of place in the flow of the phrase.

Pianists learn to delay the lifting of their finger until the next note is in place so that a key is pressed down at all times. This involves coordination from the wrist and proper finger strength. They also employ the pedal to keep the sound sustained. All of these techniques take many years of practice for musicians to perfect.
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