Introduction to Violin Articulations
Introduction to Violin Articulations
Although this article is titled Introduction to Violin Articulations it is more of a basic introduction to demonstrate the concept so you can more easily continue your study and review the various types of articulations available not only for the violin but for each instrument you may be employing when creating your next masterpiece.
The violin has many more articulations than this article presents. We are going to look at only a few of them to get you started. The concept of articulations is fairly easy to understand in principal however it becomes considerably more complex than it would appear at the onset of your learning about them.
Violin Articulations are performed by the instrumentalist using different techniques such as bow pressure, the position on the violin where the note is being played, the angle of the bow as it touches the string, the various positions and movements of the wrist and/or elbow, etc. The effect of using these various techniques results in the creation of different sounds even though the same pitch is being played.
The sounds produced when using various articulations when composing music gives a composer many choices expanding his or her options to create the sound they are looking for. Alternating between the different articulations and/or interweaving two or more articulations in a passage, allows the composer to create the feel or emotion he or she is wanting to create.
To make our introduction to violin articulations simple and to offer a few examples of what articulations are, we will be using music notation and sound samples in this presentation. I have taken the liberty to compose a short melody line which we will be using throughout to keep everything simplified and to prevent confusion when comparing each of the articulations examples to each other. It is my hope to convey to you this basic understanding and that you will begin or extend your journey of learning all about them in your work.
The violin articulations we will be reviewing in this particular article are; Legato, Marcato, Staccato and Pizzicato. Remember, there are many more than the few we are including here. We are simply attempting to introduce you to some of the articulations available on the violin.
The presentation model used here first defines the term used commonly to identify the articulation, followed by a notation example with an audio file for you to review. In all cases I used the Moderato tempo, set at a quarter note at 100 beats per minute, again for consistency.
Violin Articulations – Legato
Legato – In a smooth, connected and even style without any noticeable breaks between the notes.
In our example below, there is a rest intentionally placed on the fourth beat of the measure to help in understanding the fluid motion of the legato performance and to hear what is meant by a break in the sound, otherwise all the remaining notes are in essence connected together creating a smooth flowing sound.
Do you notice how the sound is continuous and unbroken between each of the notes with the exception of when the rest occurred? This particular point is one of the main features of the sound produced by the performer when playing legato. I would like to suggest that you go back one more time to listen carefully to this performance.
Also, listen to gain an understanding of what is meant by a break in sound as caused by the rest in measure one. You may have to play the sample a few times to get your eyes to follow the notes as they sound. It will come along, just be a bit patient and you will be gaining even more skills that will be useful as we continue our journey in making music.
Violin Articulations – Marcato
Marcato – in a heavily accentuated manner.
Caution – if you were listening to the previous examples where your speaker volume was set super high then you may want to turn it down a bit as the performance of the marcato articulation is strongly accented or at a higher velocity than when playing legato.
Also, in music notation when marking the notes to give direction to the performer an upwards pointing arrow is placed above each note to designate that it is to be played using the marcato articulation. This symbol is to denote an accent or to play it louder than notes that do not have this symbol above them.
After listening to the marcato example go back and listen to the legato sample again this time replay both, one immediately after the other. It should be crystal clear to you the differences between these two articulations. Take some time to notice these differences and not just the velocity or volume differences. For example; in the marcato sample you may have noticed that all of the notes are broken or detached from each other and the effect is sharper. The sound is more specific or distinct, note to note, as compared to those in the legato sample.
What other distinctions can you make comparing the first two articulations to each other?
Violin Articulations – Staccato
Staccato – to be played in a disconnected manner.
This articulation is similar to marcato however it is not accented. The notes are still short, detached and abrupt with clear breaks in between each note.
Take a moment now to play each of the previous three articulation examples making as many distinctions between them as you can. Play them as many times as you feel necessary for you to understand the differences between them.
In our example, the dot above the note is the symbol used to designate to the performer to use the staccato articulation. The differences between marcato and staccato are a bit more difficult to make when comparing either to the legato articulation example. How many distinctions can you make between each of these examples?
Violin Articulations – Pizzicato
Pizzicato – in a plucking manner.
This articulation is created when a performer uses his or her fingers to pluck a string rather than to use the bow to make the string sound. The notes are still played detached and somewhat muffled due to the differences between using the fingers versus using the bow.
The pizzicato articulation is marked above the staff using the pizz. marking at the beginning of the note, phrase or section. The performer will continue to play pizzicato until he or she sees the word arco at which time the performer returns or goes back to using the bow.
At the sake of redundancy, please go back now and play each of the articulations explained above until you have a good grasp of what each articulation is.
There is one other point I would like to make about articulations and that is all instruments do not have available all of the possible articulations available on the violin. The stringed instruments have many more than most other instrument groups such as brass or woodwind instruments. Your continued study will expose you to what articulations are available on an instrument. The more you know about them you will be more creative in your performances and in your music composition work.
This brief introduction to violin articulations has been intended to teach those who wish to learn what the concept is and a little about the various articulations available for the violin. As previously stated, there are a number of articulations not discussed here in this article and I urge you to continue to seek out more information from your teacher.
Further, there are several very good websites out there that provide excellent examples and videos that will further your knowledge and insights as to the other articulations available for the violin.
One in particular you may find very useful is called Violin Masterclass. This is a very excellent website for learning articulations and other aspects of playing and performing with the violin. They have many examples in video providing an expansive understanding of this topic including videos of performances that demonstrate the principals being taught. They also have a section for children too. So, whether you are an advanced player or a beginner you will gain by visiting their site.
Thanks for taking the time to review our introduction to violin articulations. We hope it has been time well spent for you. Keep making and writing that beautiful noise!
Introduction to Violin Articulations