Saturday, October 15, 2011

The staccato speech vs the legato song.

One of the great things about going to my daughter Ebony's classical music piano lessons, when she was young, was learning so much about reading and understanding the sheet musical scores.  One of the first things in piano she had to learn was the difference between staccato [playing each note written separately in a pecking manner on the keys] and legato [connecting a group of notes without a break from one note to the next in a rolling of fingers  manner]. In the legato method the pianist rolls his finger on one note and doesn't release that note until he connects it with the next note that is rolled. This creates a singing sound of those notes played. You can tell when the composer wanted the pianist to play in a group of notes legato as there is a curved [slur] line over  those notes written to be played legato.     If the composer wants to make clear without a doubt that  a group of notes is played staccato, he will place a dot over those notes. The pianist will play staccato notes by bouncing down then up on each note separately. There will be a clear space from one note to the next.   Sometimes a composer will have a curved line over a group of notes with also  a dot also over each separate note.  While there is that curved line, you still play those notes staccato. That curved line is emphasizing that those notes constitute a phrase.  The dot over each note trumps the curved line meaning staccato is to be played.

If these were words instead of notes, you could say that the staccato sound is speaking each word distinctly and separately, while the legato sound would be singing those same words.

I have picked this wonderful piano sonata by Mozart to see if you can tell when legato is played and when staccato is used.   For example, look at the legato shown [in the right hand] between the 29-38 second marks versus the staccato you see in the 39-49 second marks.

I love this piece and think you will too.

W.A. Mozart: Piano Sonata #14 in C minor, movement 1, molto allegro:


bradley said...

Very cool music lesson and I didn't even have to pay for it-- thanks big mike

Big Mike said...

Your welcome :)