Saturday, April 2, 2011
In this lesson, we will be going into slurs and staccatos.
One thing you will notice when you look at sheet music is the similar appearances that slurs and ties have to each other.
As we learned in the previous lesson, a tie is a curved line that always joins two adjacent notes of the same pitch. But what is a slur and how is it different to a tie? The image below shows you the differences between a slur and a tie. Do you notice the differences from just looking at the picture?
The first obvious difference is that a slur indicates a musical phrase while a tie joins the duration of notes of the same pitch. Always remember that a slur does not join the notes together like a tie does. But what other differences is there that can be seen in the above image? The 2nd thing that you will notice is that a slur joins together 2 or more notes of different pitches using a curved line. This means that the notes are not placed on the same line or space like it is with a tie. A slur can extended over two or more notes as well as sometimes span several bars on a staff as can be seen in the above image.
The next thing we need to know is what does a slur tell us to do when playing the piano.
Well, the slur instructs the pianist that the 11 notes in the above image should be tied together. It means that you play these notes as a legato (smoothly and connected with no break in the sound) ie you play each note in one physical stroke, one uninterrupted breath from the first note to the last note. All the notes under the slur should then blend together rather than sound like individually played notes.
To play the legato/slur, let's look at the short music piece shown below. It starts off with middle C. First play the middle C with the thumb of your right hand. Before you release the thumb from middle C, your 2nd finger should be going down toward the D key. This means that just when you release your thumb completely from middle C, your 2nd finger should be playing the D key. Continue on this way with the E, F and G key using your 3rd, 4th and 5th fingers of your right hand, respectively. Can you hear the smooth, connected sound when you play this way? Keep practicing and you will soon be able to play it and hear the connected sound of each note. Also try to practice the piece with your left hand so you can get the feel of play slurs with both hands.
Here is another piece of music you can practice to. It has both slurs and ties in it. This piece will also help you in differentiating between and tie and a slur.
Now that you know the differences between a tie and a slur, we will be going into the next musical symbol, which is the staccato.
The staccato is basically a note with a dot placed above or below the note as shown in the image below. Staccato sounds are crisp, short and detached. To play staccato, you press a key then take your finger off as quickly as possible so that the note sounds short and detached. Practice playing staccato with each of your fingers of both hands.
Below is a few short pieces of music that you can use to practice your staccato and your slurs/legatos.