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Articulation

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by danqi, May 7, 2002.


  1. danqi

    danqi

    May 21, 2001
    Germany
    I am currently working my way through the Libster reading lesson 10.
    http://www.libster.com/lib/reading10.html
    There are two things I don't understand:
    1) What does "tenuto" mean? I don't get the explanation "well held".
    2) I know what "legato" means but how do I play it? When I play, I always try to play smoothly. Am I really only supposed to play smoothly when it's noted as leagato?

    thanks,
    Orthanc
     
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    ORWELCOME,

    "Tenuto" simply means to hold a note to its full value and not let it end prematurely. So, if you are playing a figure that includes a quarter-note followed by a quarter note rest with a metronome, you'd play the quarternote on beat one and hold it until you stop the string from vibrating exactly ON beat two. Make sense?

    The second question is a bit more difficult on BG. "Legato" really means smooth and connected, and on instruments that are capable of it, you would simply include all notes under a slur as connected and only attack the first one.

    i.e. - if you were playing a Double Bass with a bow, you would continue your bow-stroke in one direction with your right hand and finger the appropriate pitches with your left, so only the first note would be attacked, and the rest would be slurred together. (slurred, not blurred) Or if you were playing a wind instrument, you'd only tongue the first note and just continue your breath while you fingered the rest of the notes under the slur (or written legato designation).

    But on a BG, you can't really do this without an ebow or some serious tap technique, so what you try to do instead is try to approximate the intended effect of "connectedness" in any way you can with the technique you have. Does that make sense?
     
  3. danqi

    danqi

    May 21, 2001
    Germany
    Am I not supposed to do that all the time anyway? At least when I am not playing staccato.

    You are not talking about hammer-ons and pull-offs, are you?

    You mean like striking the first note, and then play the others with a softer touch and well-held?
     
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Something like that. The best I can tell you is to listen to some instruments (like strings and/or winds) that can play TRUE legato, and follow along in the music (notated) as you listen. When you do this, the lesson will teach itself. A really good place to start is the Suites for unaccompanied 'Cello by J.S. Bach. If there's a music school anywhere near you, they should have both scores and recordings of this available in the library. 10 minutes of watching and listening in this manner will teach you more than 100 hours of reading typed descriptions on the internet.

    Good luck.
     
  5. danqi

    danqi

    May 21, 2001
    Germany
    Ok, thanks for you help.
    I will check out Bach, I have been wanting to do that for a long time, anyways.
     
  6. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    "Tenuto" often means to let the tempo drag for a moment while you hold the note longer than strict tempo would allow. Kinda like when an opera singer hits the high note, and the whole orchestra slows down to let the singer bloom the note, then come back to tempo when the singer's ready. Tenuto in this sense is a kind of a short fermata. In popular music where the tempo seldom drags, it's often just the singer or soloist who lags the rest of the band, then scurries to catch up later.
     
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Don't you mean "rubato" rather than "tenuto" in this instance?
     
  8. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    Rubato intends a whole passage be played by the entire ensemle with little attention to strict tempo. Barberhop quartets often sing like this. You knoiw they're doing rubato when there's no actual beat for an entire passage. Listen to "Honey Pie" (the 30's-ish tune, not "Wlid Honey Pie"!) on the Beatles' White Album. The intro with just Paul and the piano is a good example of rubato.

    Tenuto refers to just one note held a bit longer than the metronome would, in the midst of a passage that follows strict tempo. Imagine a cunductor in front of an orchestra. If he stabs a note and freezes, it's probably a fermata; but if he continues to move slowly while he drags out one note, then goes back to tempo, that's a tenuto.
     
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    The term tenuto has nothing to do with tempo, only with sustain. In orchestral music, it is common to find tenuto parts in one instrumental part while others play entirely different articulations. This is also common in piano music between the hands.

    The Harvard dictionary of music defines tenuto as "held", and "sustained". Gardner Read's Music Notation: A Manual of Modern Practice states, "...the first use of the term is found in the vocal music of the ninth century. It was abbreviated as b.t. in plainsong manuscripts, standing for the Latin bene tene, "hold well". In modern practice, tenuto is more a matter of stress than stopping, with notes or chords sustained for their full value. It is generally indicated by the dash, the historic sign for a pressure accent."
     
  10. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    Uncle...


    I agree with the "fully-held" interpretation -- always did -- but I guess I've always seen my musical directors (I was in high school choisrs) slow slightly for a tenuto. I'm still convinced that 90% of conductors will slow the whole ensemble when the soloist has a tenuto.

    So, Orthanc, now you have the full academic debate and background.

    But, in any event, back to your original question: How do I play it? A composer puts a tenuto on a note when he wants that note to stand out, not necessarily volume-wise. My advice to give the impression of a tenuto on an EBG would be to add some vibrato to the note so it feels like it's sustaining fully through to the end of the note. Since you can't add sustain to a plucked instrument the way a wind instrument or voice can, you have to resort to tricks, like vibrato. Perhaps I'm remembering my piano lessons. On a piano, you can't do ANYTHING to a note once you've hit it, so slowing the tempo momentarily is another trick for giving the composer's desired emphasis to a note.

    'Zat help?
     
  11. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Y'know, Chris, I have to disgaree for the block. Take, for instance, the tenuto markings in Bach's Cello Suites. Because the first movement is written almost entirely in 16th notes, in order to play those tenuto markings correctly, you've got to play out of time. I'm not saying that all the time tenuto means out of time, but often it does.

    I've been playing with symphonic wind ensembles for a long time now, and more often than not, the tenuto gives the steady tempo a 'hiccup', so to speak.
     
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Whoa! Sorry, I didn't mean to start an argument...I just wanted to point out that, technically speaking, tenuto is simply an articulation and not a tempo indication. In music designed to be played by one person (i.e. - solo piano music, 'Cello suites, etc....) it is common for tempo fluctuations to be left largely to the discretion of the player. The player will, if he or she is musical, choose musically logical places to drag the tempo a bit, and tenuto passages can be one logical place to do this.

    However, in the orchestral reperetoire, it is also common for tenuto to be simply an articulation color in one voice or choir while others play different articulations as a kind of "textural counterpoint". This is especially common in Mozart and Handel, where the strings use the loure (Portato) stroke as an accompaniment while something more "sprightly" is happening in the lead melodic instrument or instruments - this is a common texture in the classical literature, and these passages can go on for extended periods. And all of this happens under a simple global tempo indication which does not change. If tenuto were to become a tempo indication in and of itself, these passages would continue to drag until the entire section came to a screeching halt.

    Perhaps we can put this to bed by saying that tenuto is an articulation which lends itself to interpretive tempo dragging?
     
  13. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Sounds good to me. And I wasn't arguing - you quite obviously know more about classical music than I do - I was just pointing out some experience.
     
  14. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    These terms do eveolve over time and certain pieces become "traditionally" played in certain ways. I'm sure famous soloists over the years have added their interpretations to the lexicon, and then their way of playing a piece becomes THE way of playing the piece. I imagine that is what has happened to the term "tenuto".

    DISSHAROLD , thanks for pointing out that definition.
     
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    ELIWHITNEYHOUSTON,

    I think you have nailed the nature of the confusion with the above. For the record, I wasn't trying to take the "Theory Nazi" portion of my TB title too seriously...I just wanted to post the official definition, not only for SPORESPANK, but also for general clarification. Back in school, I had all of this stuff drilled into my head in conducting and orchestration classes, and believe me, when I used the wrong articulation then, I heard about it. In red ink. LOTS of red ink. :D