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How to Read Music: Articulations

Articulations are essential ingredients of any artistic musical interpretation. The four most common articulations are Legato, Staccato, Tenuto, and Accent, notated and played as follows…


Legato

Smoothly connect the notes, as if played with a single breath. Legato is explicitly indicated by a curved line showing which notes should be connected…

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Legato is general assumed as the default articulation unless there are other markings as described below.


Staccato

Disconnected and played as with a separate breath. In addition, the notes may be played with varying degrees of “shortness: and “sharpness”. Staccato is indicated by a dot immediately above or below the note head…

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Tenuto

Also called non-legato. Connected, but each note played as with a separate breath. Tenuto is indicated by a horizontal line immediately above or below the note head…

piano-ology-how-to-read-music-articulations-tenuto

Accent

Play the marked note(s) with more emphasis (usually louder) than the other notes in the phrase. Accents are indicated with a “greater than” sign immediately above or below the note head…

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Other than legato, all other articulations may be played to varying degrees — in intensity and duration — to suit the music and your personal taste. Furthermore, articulations can be combined to create even more musical effects. Let your artistic ear be your guide to how much loudness, connectedness, shortness, or sharpness is “just right.”

learn more… How to Read Music: Dynamic Markings

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