Composers' Forum

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.

Views: 115

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

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.

Reply to Discussion


Sign up info

Read before you sign up to find out what the requirements are!


© 2020   Created by Gav Brown.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service