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Three notes with staccato dots

Staccato ( [stakˈkaːto] ; Italian for "detached") is a form of musical articulation. In modern notation, it signifies a note of shortened duration, [1] [2] separated from the note that may follow by silence. [3] It has been described by theorists and has appeared in music since at least 1676. [4]



In 20th-century music, a dot placed above or below a note indicates that it should be played staccato, and a wedge is used for the more emphatic staccatissimo. However, before 1850, dots, dashes, and wedges were all likely to have the same meaning, even though some theorists from as early as the 1750s distinguished different degrees of staccato through the use of dots and dashes, with the dash indicating a shorter, sharper note, and the dot a longer, lighter one.

A number of signs came to be used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to discriminate more subtle nuances of staccato. These signs involve various combinations of dots, vertical and horizontal dashes, vertical and horizontal wedges, and the like, but attempts to standardize these signs have not generally been successful. [5]

The example below illustrates the scope of the staccato dot:


In the first measure, the pairs of notes are in the same musical part (or voice) since they are on a common stem. The staccato applies to both notes of the pairs. In the second measure, the pairs of notes are stemmed separately indicating two different parts, so the staccato applies only to the upper note.

The opposite musical articulation of staccato is legato, signifying long and continuous notes. [6] There is an intermediate articulation called either mezzo staccato or non legato.

By default, in the music notation program Sibelius, "staccatos shorten a note by 50%." [7]


In musical notation, staccatissimo (plural: staccatissimi or the anglicised form staccatissimos) indicates that the notes are to be played extremely separated and distinct, a superlative staccato. This can be notated with little pikes over or under the notes, depending on stem direction, as in this example from Bruckner's Symphony No. 0 in D minor:


Alternatively, it can be notated by writing the word "staccatissimo" or the abbreviation "staccatiss." over the staff. A few composers, such as Mozart, have used staccato dots accompanied by a written instruction staccatissimo when they mean the passage to be played staccatissimo. [8]

See also

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Half note

In music, a half note (American) or minim (British) is a note played for half the duration of a whole note and twice the duration of a quarter note. It was given its Latin name because it was the shortest of the five note values used in early medieval music notation. In time signatures with 4 as the bottom number, such as 4
or 3
, the half note is two beats long. However, when 2 is the bottom number, the half note is one beat long.

Eighth note

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Dotted note Musical note duration

In Western musical notation, a dotted note is a note with a small dot written after it. In modern practice, the first dot increases the duration of the basic note by half of its original value. This means that a dotted note is equivalent to writing the basic note tied to a note of half the value – for instance, a dotted half note is equivalent to a half note tied to a quarter note. Subsequent dots add progressively halved value, as shown in the example to the right. Though theoretically possible, a note with more than three dots is highly uncommon; only quadruple dots have been attested. If the original note is considered as being of length 1, then a quintuple dot would only be 1/32 longer than the quadruple dotted note. The difficulty may be seen by comparing dotted notation to tied notation: a quarter note is equivalent to 2 tied eighth notes, a dotted quarter = 3 tied eighth notes, double dotted = 7 tied sixteenth notes, triple dotted = 15 tied thirty-second notes, and quadruple dotted = 31 tied sixty-fourth notes. Although shorter notes do occur, sixty-fourth notes are considered the shortest practical duration found in musical notation.


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Rhythmic mode

In medieval music, the rhythmic modes were set patterns of long and short durations. The value of each note is not determined by the form of the written note, but rather by its position within a group of notes written as a single figure called a "ligature", and by the position of the ligature relative to other ligatures. Modal notation was developed by the composers of the Notre Dame school from 1170 to 1250, replacing the even and unmeasured rhythm of early polyphony and plainchant with patterns based on the metric feet of classical poetry, and was the first step towards the development of modern mensural notation. The rhythmic modes of Notre Dame Polyphony were the first coherent system of rhythmic notation developed in Western music since antiquity.

In musical notation, tenuto, denoted as a horizontal bar adjacent a note, is a direction for the performer to hold or sustain a note for its full length.

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

In medieval music theory, the terms color and coloration are used in four distinct senses, two of which relate to the notation and structuring of note durations, the third to florid ornamentation, and the fourth to the quality of chromatic music.

Sixteenth note

In music, a sixteenth note (American) or semiquaver (British) is a note played for half the duration of an eighth note (quaver), hence the names. It is the equivalent of the semifusa in mensural notation, first found in 15th-century notation.

1st millennium BC in music – 1st millennium in music – 11th century in music

Chinese musical notation

Systems of musical notation have been in use in China for over two thousand years. Different systems have been used to record music for bells and for the Guqin stringed instrument. More recently a system of numbered notes (Jianpu) has been used, with resemblances to Western notations.


  1. Willi Apel, Harvard Dictionary of Music (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1960), p. 708.
  2. Michael Kennedy, ed., [ full citation needed ]The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music, third edition (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 617.
  3. Geoffrey Chew, "Staccato", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
  4. Werner Bachmann, Robert E. Seletsky, David D. Boyden, Jaak Liivoja-Lorius, Peter Walls, and Peter Cooke, "Bow", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
  5. Geoffrey Chew, "Staccato", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
  6. Michael Kennedy and Joyce Bourne, "Staccato", The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music[ full citation needed ] (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).
  7. Daniel Spreadbury, Michael Eastwood, Ben Finn, and Jonathan Finn, "Sibelius 5 Reference", edition 5.2 (March 2008), p. 284.
  8. Philip Farkas, The Art of French Horn Playing (Evanston: Summy-Birchard Company, 1956): p. 51. ISBN   978-0-87487-021-3.