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A slurred A-minor natural scale. The slur indicates that the scale is played legato.

In music performance and notation, legato ( [leˈɡaːto] ; Italian for "tied together"; French lié; German gebunden) indicates that musical notes are played or sung smoothly and connected. That is, the player makes a transition from note to note with no intervening silence. Legato technique is required for slurred performance, but unlike slurring (as that term is interpreted for some instruments), legato does not forbid re-articulation.[ clarification needed ]


Standard notation indicates legato either with the word legato, or by a slur (a curved line) under notes that form one legato group. Legato, like staccato, is a kind of articulation.

There is an intermediate articulation called either mezzo staccato or non-legato (sometimes referred to as portato ).

Classical string instruments

In music for Classical string instruments, legato is an articulation that often refers to notes played with a full bow, and played with the shortest silence, often barely perceptible, between notes. The player achieves this through controlled wrist movements of the bowing hand, often masked or enhanced with vibrato. Such a legato style of playing can also be associated with portamento.


In guitar playing (apart from classical guitar) legato is used interchangeably as a label for both musical articulation and a particular application of technique—playing musical phrases using the left hand to play the notes—using techniques such as glissando, string bending, hammer-ons and pull-offs instead of picking to sound the notes. The fact that the same finger is both setting the string vibrating and setting the pitch leads to smoother transitions between notes than when one hand is used to mark pitch while the other strikes the string. Legato technique to provide legato articulation on electric guitar generally requires playing notes that are close and on the same string, following the first note with others that are played by hammer-ons and pull-offs.

Some guitar virtuosos (notably Allan Holdsworth, Shawn Lane and Brett Garsed) developed their legato technique to the extent that they could perform extremely complex passages involving any permutation of notes on a string at extreme tempos, and particularly in the case of Holdsworth, tend to eschew pull-offs entirely for what some feel is a detrimental effect on guitar tone as the string is pulled slightly sideways. The term "hammer-ons from nowhere"[ citation needed ] is commonly employed when crossing strings and relying solely on fretting hand strength to produce a note but on a plucked string. Many guitar virtuosos are well-versed in the legato technique, as it allows for rapid and "clean" runs. Multiple hammer-ons and pull-offs together are sometimes also referred to colloquially as "rolls," a reference to the fluid sound of the technique. A rapid series of hammer-ons and pull-offs between a single pair of notes is called a trill.

Legato on guitar is commonly associated with playing more notes within a beat than the stated timing, i.e., playing 5 (a quintuplet) or 7 (a septuplet) notes against a quarter-note instead of the usual even number or triplet. This gives the passage an unusual timing and when played slowly an unusual sound. However, this is less noticeable by ear when played fast, as legato usually is. There is a fine line between legato and two-hand finger tapping, in some cases making the two techniques harder to distinguish by ear. Generally, legato adds a more fluid, smooth sound to a passage.


In synthesizers legato is a type of monophonic operation. In contrast to the typical monophonic mode where every new note articulates the sound by restarting the envelope generators, in legato mode the envelopes are not re-triggered if the new note is played "legato" (with the previous note still depressed). This causes the initial transient from the attack and decay phases to sound only once for an entire legato sequence of notes. Envelopes reaching the sustain stage remain there until the final note is released.

Vocal music

In classical singing, legato means a string of sustained vowels with minimal interruption from consonants. It is a key characteristic of the bel canto singing style that prevailed among voice teachers and singers during the 18th century and the first four decades of the 19th century. Usually referred to as the line, a good, smooth legato is still necessary for successful classical singers. In Western Classical vocal music, singers generally use it on any phrase without explicit articulation marks. Usually the most prevalent issue with vocal legato is maintaining the "line" across registers.

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Staccato is a form of musical articulation. In modern notation, it signifies a note of shortened duration, separated from the note that may follow by silence. It has been described by theorists and has appeared in music since at least 1676.

Pizzicato Playing technique for string instruments

Pizzicato is a playing technique that involves plucking the strings of a string instrument. The exact technique varies somewhat depending on the type of instrument:

Sweep picking

Sweep picking is a guitar playing technique. When sweep picking, the guitarist plays single notes on consecutive strings with a 'sweeping' motion of the pick, while using the fretting hand to produce a specific series of notes that are fast and fluid in sound. Both hands essentially perform an integral motion in unison to achieve the desired effect.

Tapping Guitar playing technique

Tapping, also called tap style (tapstyle), touch-style, and two-handed tapping, is a guitar playing technique where a string is fretted and set into vibration as part of a single motion of being tapped onto the fretboard, with either hand, as opposed to the standard technique of fretting with one hand and picking with the other. Tapping is the primary technique intended for some instruments such as the Chapman Stick, and is the alternative method for the Warr Guitar and others. Tapped passages incorporate the techniques of hammer-on and pull-off, but with both hands freed to produce notes. Some players rely extensively or exclusively on tapping.

A hammer-on is a playing technique performed on a stringed instrument by sharply bringing a fretting-hand finger down on to the fingerboard behind a fret, causing a note to sound. This technique is the opposite of the pull-off.

A pull-off is a stringed instrument playing and articulation technique performed by plucking or "pulling" the finger that is grasping the sounding part of a string off the fingerboard of either a fretted or unfretted instrument. This intermediate- to advanced playing technique is done using the tip of a finger or fingernail on the fretting hand. Pull-offs are done to facilitate the playing of embellishments and ornaments such as grace notes. Pull-offs may be notated in sheet music or improvised by the performer, depending on the musical style and context.

This is a list of musical terms that are likely to be encountered in printed scores, music reviews, and program notes. Most of the terms are Italian, in accordance with the Italian origins of many European musical conventions. Sometimes, the special musical meanings of these phrases differ from the original or current Italian meanings. Most of the other terms are taken from French and German, indicated by "Fr." and "Ger.", respectively.

A slur is a symbol in Western musical notation indicating that the notes it embraces are to be played without separation. A slur is denoted with a curved line generally placed over the notes if the stems point downward, and under them if the stems point upwards.

Prime functions of the slur in keyboard music...are to delineate the extent of a phrase line and to indicate the legato performance of melodies or arpeggiated chords.

Both accents and slurs relate directly to woodwind articulation...(and brass as well) [since they] employ a variety of tonguing effects [which are indicated by use of, "the correct form," of accents and slurs].

[With bowed string instruments] A curved slur over or under two or more notes indicates that these notes are to be connected...Slurs are only partially indicative of phrasing; if an actual phrase mark is necessary, it should be notated above the passage with broken lines.

In music, an accent is an emphasis, stress, or stronger attack placed on a particular note or set of notes, or chord, either as a result of its context or specifically indicated by an accent mark. Accents contribute to the articulation and prosody of a performance of a musical phrase. Accents may be written into a score or part by a composer or added by the performer as part of his or her interpretation of a musical piece.

ASCII tab is a text file format used for writing guitar, bass guitar and drum tabulatures that uses plain ASCII numbers, letters and symbols. It is the only widespread file format for representing tabulature, and is extensively used for disseminating tabulature via the Internet.

Alternate picking is a guitar playing technique that employs alternating downward and upward strokes in a continuous fashion. If the technique is performed at high speed on a single string or course voicing the same note, it may be referred to as "tremolo picking" or "double picking".

Articulation is a fundamental musical parameter that determines how a single note or other discrete event is sounded. Articulations primarily structure an event's start and end, determining the length of its sound and the shape of its attack and decay. They can also modify an event's timbre, dynamics, and pitch. Musical articulation is analogous to the articulation of speech, and during the Baroque and Classical periods it was taught by comparison to oratory.

Shred guitar Virtuoso lead guitar solo playing style

Shred guitar or shredding is a virtuoso lead guitar solo playing style for the guitar, based on various advanced and complex playing techniques, particularly rapid passages and advanced performance effects. Shred guitar includes "fast alternate picking, sweep-picked arpeggios, diminished and harmonic scales, finger-tapping and whammy-bar abuse", It is commonly used in heavy metal guitar playing, where guitarists use the electric guitar with a guitar amplifier and a range of electronic effects such as distortion, which create a more sustained guitar tone and facilitate guitar feedback effects.

Violin technique

Playing the violin entails holding the instrument between the jaw and the collar bone. The strings are sounded either by drawing the bow across them (arco), or by plucking them (pizzicato). The left hand regulates the sounding length of the strings by stopping them against the fingerboard with the fingers, producing different pitches.

Finger vibrato is vibrato produced on a string instrument by cyclic hand movements. Despite the name, normally the entire hand moves, and sometimes the entire upper arm. It can also refer to vibrato on some woodwind instruments, achieved by lowering one or more fingers over one of the uncovered holes in a trill-like manner. This flattens the note periodically creating the vibrato.

Classical guitar technique

In classical guitar, the right hand is developed in such a way that it can sustain two, three, and four voice harmonies while also paying special attention to tone production. The index (i), middle (m), and ring (a) fingers are generally used to play the melody, while the thumb (p) accompanies in the bass register adding harmony, and produces a comparable texture and effect to that of the piano. The classical guitar is a solo polyphonic instrument, and it is difficult to master.

Flamenco guitar Acoustic guitar used in Flamenco music

A flamenco guitar is a guitar similar to a classical guitar but with thinner tops and less internal bracing. It usually has nylon strings, like the classical guitar, but it generally possesses a livelier, more gritty sound compared to the classical guitar. It is used in toque, the guitar-playing part of the art of flamenco.

Portato, also mezzo-staccato, French notes portées,​ in music denotes a smooth, pulsing articulation and is often notated by adding dots under slur markings.

Guitar picking

Guitar picking is a group of hand and finger techniques a guitarist uses to set guitar strings in motion to produce audible notes. These techniques involve plucking, strumming, brushing, etc. Picking can be done with:

Cello technique

Playing the cello is done while seated with the instrument supported on the floor. The fingertips of the left hand stop the strings on the fingerboard to determine the pitch of the fingered note. The right hand plucks or bows the strings to sound the notes.


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