Guitar Technique Tip of the Month

Your Personal Guitar Lesson

Douglas Niedt



In Part 3 (the conclusion) of How to Play Staccato I cover how to use staccato and legato at the same time in separate parts of a passage to add interest and contrast. I also discuss how to use staccato in contrapuntal and even popular music. To illustrate my points, I demonstrate with videos of passages from Giuliani's Rossiniana, Sor's Grand Solo, Albéniz' Malaguena, and even Mr. Bojangles.

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HOW TO PLAY STACCATO, Part 3 of 3

By Douglas Niedt

Copyright Douglas Niedt. All Rights Reserved. This article may be reprinted, but please be considerate and give credit to Douglas Niedt.



Staccato and Legato at the Same Time??

Melody staccato, bass legato

Sometimes the melody in a passage can be staccato but the bass legato. Look at this passage from Mauro Giuliani’s Rossiniana No. 4, Opus 122:



Rossiniana Original Notation


As notated, beat one and beat three are short as is beat one in the next measure. It sounds great that way. However, because this motif is repeated several times I like to vary the articulation. Therefore, on some of the repeated instances of this passage, I like to play:



Rossinina Alternate Version


The melody on beat one and three stays short as before. But this time the bass notes are all played as long, connected quarter notes—legato. So we have the contrast of the upper part (melody) being staccato, but the lower part (bass) being legato. I think it’s a great effect for contrast. Check it out:

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Be sure to watch the video on full screen. Click the symbol to the right of "HD" in the lower right-hand corner after the video begins playing. Hit escape "ESC" on your keyboard to return to normal viewing.

Melody legato, bass staccato

The next passage is from the introduction to Fernando Sor’s Grand Solo, Opus 14:



Fernando Sor Grand Solo Original Notation


No indication of articulation is given. Playing all the notes sustained and legato sounds fine. But I think the passage takes on an extra dimension or depth and mystery if the bass notes are played a little detached:



Fernando Sor Grand Solo Staccato Bass


Watch this video:

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Or, a more complicated example occurs in Malagueña by Issac Albéniz:



Malaguena Part 1


Malaguena Part 2


Here the melody is legato and the accompaniment staccato. The use of staccato makes the piece come alive. Watch this excellent performance by David Russell:

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Staccato in Contrapuntal Music

Sometimes things can get complicated in applying staccato to contrapuntal music such as that by J.S. Bach. Here is the beginning of the Presto from Bach’s Präludiem to his Lute Suite No. 1 BMV 996.



Bach Praeludium


It could be played with no articulation. But a scheme of articulation can make it much more interesting and propel the music forward. For this passage, there are many possibilities for articulation. But the important thing is to use the same pattern of articulation for the same motif in each voice for cohesiveness. In this example I have chosen: Long for the upbeat then a recurrent pattern of: Short-Short-Long-Short followed by four legato 16th notes.

In other words for the upper voice:



Bach Praeludium Upper Voice


I keep the same articulation pattern for the lower voice:



Bach Praeludium Lower Voice


Put the articulation in both parts together and we have:



Bach Praeludium Articulation Both Parts


Watch me demonstrate:

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Staccato in Arrangements of Popular Music

Staccato isn’t just for complex passages in classical music. It can also help differentiate parts in arrangements of popular music. In this example of Mr. Bojangles, adding articulation to the accompaniment emphasizes the ¾ rhythm of the accompaniment, adding to its independence against the legato and syncopated melody:



Mr. Bojangles


This is a nice one. Watch:

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Be sure to watch the video on full screen. Click the symbol to the right of "HD" in the lower right-hand corner after the video begins playing. Hit escape "ESC" on your keyboard to return to normal viewing.

FINAL THOUGHTS

After deep examination, one realizes there is a lot more to staccato than playing notes in a short, detached manner. First of all of, several methods can be used to execute staccato. Also, a good player can execute different degrees of staccato from very short to slightly detached. And, staccato is not just for single-line passages. Staccato can be used in one part while playing another part legato. It is appropriate and effective to use in all styles of music, from classical to pop. Mastery of staccato will definitely kick your playing up a notch.


pdf icon

The PDF Version

We have a PDF version of this article with the videos embedded in the document so you can save the entire article to your computer, videos included!

IMPORTANT:

The PDF of this article contains embedded videos. The videos will not play well unless you save the PDF to your computer first. After saving the file, open the file you just saved and the videos will play smoothly. This PDF is a large file (498 MB) so it may take a while to download.

Download How to Play Staccato Part 3 of 3.pdf

Note: You must have Adobe Reader 10 or later installed on your computer to play the videos contained in the PDFs. Download Adobe Reader here.