How to Play Like an Artist: Articulations: Legato, Staccato, Portato

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Incorporate the expressive potential of different Articulations (legato, staccato, portato) and take your playing to a whole new level of artistry…

Legato, indicated by sweeping curved line that connects the notes, means to play a string of notes so that they sound smoothly connected and flowing, as if they were all sung with a single breathe. It is crucial to understand that it is not enough for the notes to simply sound “connected”. They must also sound as if they are played with one “breath”.


Staccato, indicated by a dot above or below the note head, means to play a string of notes in a short and crisp manner, unconnected and very distinct from each other, as if they are sung with separate very short and impulsive breaths. As such, a staccato phrase should be played as a series of quick individual impulses superimposed on a larger unifying impulse.


Portato, indicated as shown below, means to play a string of notes in a slightly unconnected manner. Portato is not as short and sharp as staccato. The duration of each note is shortened only slightly from its full value.


Of course, one can mix and match articulations in order to achieve a variety of musical effects. For example, here is a mix of legato and staccato…



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