Music Composers Unite!
Something that has puzzled me a long time: How to notate a wind passage say, for horns, when you want to show the grouping and phrasing with slurs, but want the notes separate from each other. Mezzo Staccato, shown with a dot and a dash, supposedly means hold the note about 3/4 of its written value. that is what I typically do. But maybe detache is actually more correct? I want the notes to have just the slightest space between them, as if you were taking a quick breath before each note. But do you then use a slur also? You could also just not use any signs at all, no slurs, dots, etc., just the notes, and write in "detache."
Incidentally, mezzo-staccato is apparently the same as portato. But I think it may indicate more of a pause than I want. There is also dots inside of slurs, but I think that would definitely be too short.
Please let there be someone who can enlighten me on this.
If I may offer my tuppenceworth, there are 3 choices (just my view):
1) Leave it as it is (without slurs so the performers play each note separately)
2) Write non legato over the passage (perhaps using a squared bracket like we do to show 8va to cover the notes in question)
3) Write exactly what you want them to play (which will look a bit messy and Ferneyhough-y but it's exact).
Plus, a small point, the accidentals need changing in bar 47 upper part.
Thanks Dane. I'll get around to changing the accidentals eventually. Notion is rather funky with that; if you change one it may alter others. So I end up having to re-enter the notes (I imported the midi file from my DAW).
I have learned from all this that I've been doing things wrong. I'll have to do some revising of my other scores. I have used the mezzo-staccato mark way too much (a dot and a dash - this is too much of a break). Notation is complicated language, probably easier to learn Italian.
Thanks for the detailed info Greg, very helpful. You're one of the people I was hoping would respond (in addition to Bob and Dane, who have also responded, and Rodney who only is around occasionally).
Greg Brus said:
No markings = something like detache from a string player, notes are close together but each one has a clearly separate attack.
Slur only = standard legato.
Dots, dashes, dots+dashes etc only = varying degrees of clearly audible separation, notes have spaces between them and each one has a clearly separate attack. Dot+dash should be understood without any trouble but you don't really need it, it's almost a notation program thing only (for when you need the exact length of notes and none other).
Dots, dashes etc plus a slur = soft tonguing, it's all on a single breath but every note is tongued along the way. Dots give more prominent tonguing, dashes less so (to the point where it sounds pretty much almost like a standard legato).
You'll notice this 5 minute breakdown differs slightly from how a string player would interpret the markings (mostly because a slur isn't just a bow direction indicator, if something's slurred then you're supposed to keep breathing, if you're breathing then there's sound... slurred dots for example can't mean very-short-notes-with-big-spaces-inbetween,-all-on-a-single-bow, it wouldn't make sense). Thinking like a violinist is a bit helpful but it can lead you astray sometimes.
For your example I would use either dashes only, or dots plus slur. Or maybe a bit of both, this gives you some control over phrasing; just don't use big phrasing slurs like in piano parts, those look like unplayable legato written by someone ignorant, they're annoying :)
Can you show the fragment? Maybe the articulation actually solves itself in context and all this pondering isn't even necessary.