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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 music, articulation is the direction or performance technique which affects the transition or continuity on a single note or between multiple notes or sounds. Articulation involves subtle differences within duration, amplitude, meter, and, through techniques such as tremolo and pitch.



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.

Part (music) section of a musical composition

A part generally refers to a single strand or melody or harmony of music within a larger ensemble or a polyphonic musical composition. There are several senses in which the word is often used:

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.

In music performance and notation, legato 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, legato does not forbid rearticulation.

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

"To be mathematically exact a plain staccato is supposed to sound one-half of the length of the note’s value; the portamento is held for three-fourths, and staccatissimo for only one-fourth." [8]


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. [9]

See also

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or 3
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1st millennium BC in music – 1st millennium in music – 11th century in music

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  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.
  9. Philip Farkas, The Art of French Horn Playing (Evanston: Summy-Birchard Company, 1956): p. 51. ISBN   978-0-87487-021-3.