Advanced Music Theory tutorials
14. Articulations
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So do notes like have to look after their knees and other assorted body parts now?

  1. Topics of discussion
  2. The trill
  3. Marcato, portato and tenuto

1. Topics of discussion

In this tutorial, we will be discussing various articulations that you may encounter in music. So, let's have some fun.

2. The trill

In music, a trill is used to tell a musician that he has to play a rapid alternation between to adjacent notes. I find it easy to understand this if I think of it like a voice vibrato. The trill is a fairly common musical ornament, which is used to add color to your playing. On a musical sheet, it looks like this:


And here is is played back:

How rapidly you alternate between the notes is up to you and the song that you are playing. You should adjust the speed of the alternation to the tempo of the song.

3. Marcato, portato and tenuto

A marcato note is somewhat similar to an accentuated note, with the only difference being that a marcato note is to be played even louder than an accentuated one.

The portato is a term that tells the musician that the note is to be played with a shorter length, but not as short as a staccato note. A portato is also known as a mezzo-staccato because of it.

Finally, the tenuto is a term that has two meanings:

  • play the note for a longer period
  • play the note slightly louder

This is dependent on the song and on any other notations in it. The general idea is that a note marked with a tenuto line has to receive some sort of emphasis.

Here is how you notate these terms on a music sheet:


And here they are played back:

The order of appearance is marcatoportato and tenuto.

And that about covers it for this tutorial. The next one is the final tutorial in our course, in which we review what we have learned. See you then.

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