1.5 Articulation


Category: Elementary music theory | Tags: Articulation

Articulation refers to the direction or performance technique which affects the transition or continuity on a single note or between multiple notes or sounds. Articulation specify how notes should be performed, either in terms of duration or stress.

1. Articulation signs


legato legato play the notes smoothly connected.
staccato staccato detached, short.



Listen to legato.

Listen to staccato.

2. Curved lines above, below and between notes


Curved lines above, below and between notes occur in music in many ways. What they mean exactly depends on the situation. I'll explain what you might encounter on the basis of 4 examples.

Explanation of curved lines

In example 1 you can see the use of 2 curved lines. The upper curved line means: play legato and also indicates a phrasing or phrase. The lower curved line, the one between the two C's, is a tie. These two C's are held down for the combined value of both notes. Do you notice that the two C's are not in the same measure? When a note needs to held down for the combined value of both notes across the measure, this notation is used.

Writing down tied notes instead of a regular note, for example, two quarter notes tied in stead of a half note, almost never occurs. So if you can write down a note of 2 beats you do so and not two tied notes of 1 beat.

When does a curved lines mean tied and when legato?

In example 2 you see a curved line between two different notes, the G and A. This means: play legato, you must play both notes.

In example 3 you see a curved line between two equal notes, the G and G. This means: tied. Play the first G, the second G you don't play again.

In example 4 you also see a curved line between two equal notes. However, here there is another note in between. This means: play legato. You play G, A, G. The first and second G are not tied.

The direction of a curved line does not matter. Whether it is above or below a note or notes means nothing. That's a layout issue.

3. The accent


accent accent play the note louder.


The accent is notated above or below a note, on the opposite side of the stem.