Music Markings

November 4, 2004 at 10:12 PM · The way I understand things:

dot under note= martele. Stop the bow after each stroke, and clearly articulate each note. Spiccato is when the notes are played off the string. Staccato is when the notes are in a slur (?)

line = detache. Emphasize the note by making it louder, but the tone should be even, not accented. Often the note is slightly separated from the rest. If they are in a slur, it's called portato.

Also, I've gathered that there are different kinds of detache, and that simple eight notes are often played detache (smooth, continuous bow strokes).

What I'm confused about:

My teachers have usually called notes with dots under them staccato. So, what's the difference between staccato and martele? Also, I looked up martele and detache in an encyclopedia of music terms, and they were used almost interchangably. Why is that? And is there a marking for notes that are to be played lagato, or is it just understood?

Thanks, I used to think that all these marks were easy, and I just play them like I think they should sound. Now I need to explain it to other people and I'm becoming confused.

Replies (11)

November 4, 2004 at 10:17 PM · Martelé is a term that describes a certain technique of producing a certain kind of articulation. Staccato generally is just a word for a certain type of short articulation. A note with a dot under (or over) it doesn't necessarily mean you play it martelé - after all, how could you play Paganini's Moto Perpetuo all martelé? Composers sometimes don't know exactly how they want the player to execute the note - though they know how they want it to sound. It is up to your better musical judgement to decide how a specific staccato should be played.


November 4, 2004 at 10:47 PM · The ones with the slur would be upbow staccato (unless more specialized into martele etc.) correct? Is up-and-downbow staccato still staccato? I'm asking because any description of staccato including the one on Masterviolinist always seem to be limited to upbow. I'm being shown an up-and-downbow type (changing direction each stroke) which I assume is executed slightly differently - or is that martele? (Also a bit confused, apparently)

November 4, 2004 at 11:37 PM · Now I'm confused too! I understood martele to be usually indicated by a little ' arrowhead over the note.

November 4, 2004 at 11:37 PM · Greetings,

there are two kinds of relatiosnhips between notes: 1) no break, smooth as though one is trying to emulate a slur. This is confusingly called `detache` Agood way to pracitce this is to play two detache notes in one bow (slurred) and then try to emulate the sound with the change in bow direction.

2) Notes with a break in between them. These notes may be maked with a dot or may be impkied by stylistic/artistic convention.

How you make these breaks is concerned with the apllication of technique. There are a widfe variety of combinations and techniques to play these kind of notes. These include stopping the bow and then rversing direction, martele, spiccato, Sautielle, flying picatto, richochet and so on. The diffenet three thta beginners will be primarily be concerned with are stopping,martele and spiccato. Stopping is not to be confused with martele. There is no pressure preparation before the next note is played. Nor should you get confused by the length of notes concerned or the tempo. the bow stops and then it starts again. The martele is a heasvier evffect caused by an actual accent on the beginnign of the note. This requires preparation in the space between the notes thus, the speed it can be used is limited. If there is no time to prepare there is no time to do the stroke. The spicatto is an off the string -controlled - stroke played at many differnet speeds most often in the lower half. The choice of which bowing you use is a question of taste, style and techncial factors. What sounds better? There is not always a clear answer. For exmaple, in the Beethoven symphonies some conduters prefer heavy spciaato (cf the second movement of Beethoven 5 and some prefer martele. In the example above both soiund equally good. Quartets too often sound better opting for a martele ratehr than spicatto stroke in unison passages, It is extremely difficult to coordinate off the stirng strokes among four players.

Hope this helps,


November 5, 2004 at 12:37 AM · Thanks for your explanation Buri. I should probably explained why I'm asking that question now. My RCM grade has three studies and usually my teacher follows them in the order that they are presented. The first one is Trott's Melodious Double Stops # 10 and features upbow staccato followed by a double stop. He decided to skip that one because at the time I had not learned all of the double stops, and to have me work on the Kayser (description next paragraph) first simply because of the double stop issue. We've been side-tracked with recital issues so NO studies at all have been touched after all, and by now I have the missing double stops under control. I feel I'm much more prepared to work on these at this stage than the next study, which was the alternative only for the reason for the (then) incomplete work on double stops needed for the Trott.

The study coming next in the book is Kayser Op. 20 No. 5, and the way it was demonstrated to me is as a series of short detache type strokes that start with a colle(?) [dig into string, release & use wrist action to bring note forward, stop note & same upbow etc. - can't explain well]. There is a lot going on here and I feel uncomfortable attacking this first. To begin with, since I had taken an old instruction to "not move the wrist - only the fingers" literally for small bow strokes (it was for an exercise which I mistook for technique) I have a lot of catching up to do on wrist action in ordinary detache. The second thing is that the Kayser study involves a lot of string changes and starts at the E string which I find more difficult. I would rather learn to work on the bow stroke itself string by string and eventually and carefully add string changes, instead of launching straight into the study - and there is still the wrist action issue. Finally, while the techniques of both studies seem quite different (although I "think" they were both called 'staccato') it seems that the upbow staccato is a simpler action since I'm not also constantly changing bow directions and will give me a good sense of "digging into the string, bounciness" which might serve me in some way for the second study.

Both studies have dotted notes, but the Trott of course is also slurred. The Kayser is not just a simple stop-and-start beginner's staccato. Is what I've described staccato at all in regards to the Kayser?

At this moment I've been deviated to spiccato since the little duet piece calls for it so I have to let either study sit on the shelves.

Just in case I will have to start working on the Kayser first after all, I'd like to do some preliminary work on the stroke itself (when time finds itself for it), and knowing "what" it is might be helpful.

November 5, 2004 at 01:44 AM · greetings,

if the stroke is a slur with dots under the notes it is refereed to with a plethora of confusing names. I gave up and now call it slurred staccato or controlled staccato. It is basically a serious of martele strokes in one bow so the same rule applies as in regular martele- since prepration is reqwuired for this stroke its speed is necesarily limited. It is frequently found in 19th centtury editons of classical/early romantic violin music and was a characteristic feature of Spohhrs violin cocnertos. there is, in my opinion, not a great deal of point in working on it until after the martele is fully functional although the diffenrece is not that extreme. If you don`t want a heavy accent the just stop the bow between each note but try for pure sound at the beginning and end of each note.

At faster speeds the slurred spicatto becomes soemthign of an uncontrolled effect and is use din viruouso showpieces,



November 5, 2004 at 02:21 AM · Thanks, I think I understand better. So the markings indicate more of how it should sound, not the exact bow stroke that should be used? I still don't really get what the difference between stacatto and martele is, though. Bow indicate that the strokes should be separated, right? So, is martele just more accented?

November 5, 2004 at 06:08 AM · OK, the slurred staccato I kind of got. What do you think the Kayser study is (the way I described it)? Or is that the martele you are referring to in "not a great deal of point in working on it until after the martele is fully functional" -- or is martele something preceding these two?

November 5, 2004 at 02:33 AM · Greetings,

>Thanks, I think I understand better. So the markings indicate more of how it should sound, not the exact bow stroke that should be used?


>I still don't really get what the difference between stacatto and martele is, though. Bow indicate that the strokes should be separated, right? So, is martele just more accented?

Staccato is an unfortunate word because it is both a musical term and at least later a technical term as well. For the rpesent just se eit as a musical term and accept that it means to make a space between notes. Then you have to decide what kind oif tehcnique you are going to use. Stoppiong the bow and then restrating it may have varying degreees of attack on the new notes depending on the speed or `dig` you choose to us eon the new note. Martele does not have to be @particlarly strong and can be done in various parts of the bow and using differnet bow lengths. You might use a quarter or a half and there is somethign called a whole bow martele too but this is just a little more importnat in the practice rookm than on stage it is very difficult to control.

There are two kinds of martele: slow and fast. In the form one pinces the stic with the finger sthen draw the bow rapidly . this gove an attack tehn the body of the note has ery little substance. The bow is virtually floating across the top of the string. In slow martele the same attack is used, released as the stroke begins but the storke itslef is slow so that the body of the note has substancee. One should be awrae of the existence and diference between these two types of martele.

To pracitce martel you could try the following:

Playu short nots in the upper third of the bow - slowly. Puase betwene each note. During the pause pinch the bow by pressing the thumb up and diagonally towards the firts finger. AS THE STROKE BEINGS RELEASE THE PRESSURE. tHE WRITS SHOULD BE QUITE RELAXED DURING THIS PRACTICE.

sorry the capitals have no meaning. I just hit the wrong key for a change.

You can practice this exericse with only the firts finger and thumb on the stick then pout all the fingers downm and try to kepe the same sensation,



November 5, 2004 at 07:35 AM · Buri, that comment about the whole-bow martele really made my day. I've been wondering and waiting for that occasion when I would have to pull out that technique on a song, it tortured me so in college. So, now you're saying this tormenter can be kept hidden in the practice room, that I don't have to share it with the public? Instead, I will meet regularly with Martele-Abusers-Anonymous and work out my issues while maintaining my dignity.

November 5, 2004 at 09:30 AM · I"m Buri. I"m a martaholic.

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