• Kacey Link

Playing Staccato

I recently posted about articulations and their meanings, but now, how does one physically play these articulations. Let's tackle staccato first. There are three basic types of staccato: finger, wrist, and arm. These are the three broad muscle groups that you use to play the piano.

As the name implies, with finger staccato, you release the note with your finger. This technique is excellent for Baroque pieces as it can create a harpsichord-like effect. It also can be used for very soft passages, especially if you're trying to imitate strings playing pizzicato or plucking.

Wrist staccato is perhaps one of the hardest staccato techniques to learn (but perhaps is the easiest for an advanced pianist). I like to think of it as bouncing a ball. The shortness is created by flicking your wrist up after you strike a note. Typically this technique of staccato is used in succession, thus creating the bouncing ball effect. For example, Schumann's "Wild Rider" is an excellent piece to practice wrist staccato.

In this video of Bach's Goldberg Variations, you can watch Glenn Gould play a variety of finger and wrist staccato.

I usually reserve arm staccato for passages with heavy accents. This way the force that I use to strike a chord or note can be used to propel my arm upward. For this technique, you may think of works by Bartók or other pieces by twentieth-century composers or even late-Romantic era composers.

In this video of Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 1, you watch Yuja Wang use a variety of wrist and arm staccato.

Notably, you may combine these staccatos with each other to varying degrees. For example, you may use a combination of finger and wrist staccato or wrist and arm staccato. When learning a piece, it is a great idea to experiment with your staccato options as this will add so much color and variety to your playing!

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