• Kacey Link

Musical Symbols: Articulation




I received this cute thank you card the other day, and it reminded me of all the symbols that are in musical notation! So, here's just a little post about some of the basic articulation markings.


First, articulation is how you play a note. In the case of piano playing, it is how you strike a note and how you release a note. When first learning to play the piano, you frequently study staccato and legato. "Staccato," in Italian, means "detached." So when you see a note marked with a staccato symbol or a dot above or below the note head, you should release the note early and quickly. This creates a crisp sound and shortens the duration of the note, typically by half. You can also use the word in written or spoken English to mean short and disjointed. Observe: staccato has nothing to do with how the note is attacked, but only with how it is released. "Legato," on the other hand, means "tied up" or "bound," in which case, a note is "bound" to the next note. I like to think of it as each note is smooth and connected. This is notated by a curved line connecting notes. Observe: legato is about the relationship between the old note to the new note; therefore, you do have to consider both the release of the old note and the attack of the new note to achieve a good legato.


Finally, we have to talk about articulation that relates to the beginning of a note, and the most prominent is the accent, notated with a horizontal wedge. With the accent, you want to stress or emphasize a note. This is often achieved through dynamics. You play an accented note louder than the surrounding notes and with force and strength. You'll often hear musicians use the adjective "crisp," as in "crisp accents" when they use this term. Technically, the accent mark just determines how you play the attack of the note and not how you release it. Sometimes, however, you can create a stronger accent by playing the preceding note shorter. This allows for a small silence before the accented note, which in term gives the accent more emphasis.



These are the three basic articulations—to use them is like coloring with red, blue, and yellow. The next step is to learn how to vary these articulations to create more colors! Stay tuned for more info about this!!


#pianoplaying #staccato #legato #accent #articulation #musicalnotation #pianolessons