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ARTICULATION MARKS

Articulations (or accents) specify how individual notes are to be performed within a phrase or passage. They can be fine-tuned by combining more than one such symbol over or under a note. They may also appear in conjunction with phrasing marks listed in previous lessons.

– Staccato
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It sounds exactly like this:
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This indicates that the note is to be played shorter than notated, usually half the value, the rest of the metric value is then silent. Staccato marks may appear on notes of any value, shortening their performed duration without speeding the music itself.

– Staccatissimo or Spiccato
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Indicates a longer silence after the note (as described above), making the note very short. Usually applied to quarter notes or shorter. (In the past, this marking’s meaning was more ambiguous: it sometimes was used interchangeably with staccato, and sometimes indicated an accent and not staccato. These usages are now almost defunct, but still appear in some scores.) In string instruments this indicates a bowing technique in which the bow bounces lightly upon the string.

– Accent
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The note is played louder or with a harder attack than surrounding unaccented notes. May appear on notes of any duration.

– Tenuto
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This symbol indicates that a note should be played for its full value, or slightly longer; it may also indicate a slight dynamic emphasis. It may be combined with a staccato dot to indicate a slight detachment (“portato” or “mezzo staccato”).

– Marcato
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The note is played somewhat louder or more forcefully than a note with a regular accent mark (open horizontal wedge). In organ notation, this denotes that a pedal note is to be played with the toe (when above the note, use right foot; when below the note, use left foot).

– Left-hand pizzicato or Stopped note
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A note on a stringed instrument where the string is plucked with the left hand (the hand that usually stops the strings) rather than bowed. On the horn, this accent indicates a “stopped note” (a note played with the stopping hand shoved further into the bell of the horn). In percussion notation this denotes, among many other specific uses, that the hi-hat is to be closed by pressing the pedal or that an instrument is to be “choked” (silenced by causing vibrations to cease).

– Snap pizzicato
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On a stringed instrument, a note played by stretching a string away from the frame of the instrument and letting it go, making it “snap” against the frame. Also known as a Bartók pizzicato.

– Natural harmonic or Open note
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On a stringed instrument, denotes that a natural harmonic (also called flageolet) is to be played. On a valve brass instrument, denotes that the note is to be played “open” (without lowering any valve, or without mute). In organ notation, this denotes that a pedal note is to be played with the heel (when above the note, use right foot; when below the note, use left foot). In percussion notation this denotes, among many other specific uses, that the hi-hat is to be opened by release of the pedal or that an instrument is to be allowed to ring.

– Fermata (Pause)
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A note, chord, or rest sustained longer than its customary value. Usually appears over all parts at the same metrical location in a piece, to show a halt in tempo. It can be placed above or below the note.

– Up bow or Sull’arco
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On a bowed string instrument, the note is played while drawing the bow upward. On a plucked string instrument played with a plectrum or pick (such as a guitar played pick-style or a mandolin), the note is played with an up-stroke.

– Down bow or Giù arco
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Like sull’arco, except that the bow is drawn downward. On a plucked string instrument played with a plectrum or pick (such as a guitar played pick-style or a mandolin), the note is played with a down-stroke.

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