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I've been working on this piece by Sousa, and I came across this oddity: Snippet

Does this mean to play then notes somehow legato and staccato at the same time? If so, how would I play it? If not, what does it mean?

PS this is written for a Bb Cornet.

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4 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I concur with @slim regarding this being a phrase marking, and not a slur or legato mark.

I think the reason for it being there at all is to indicate that the two groups of three notes (F, A, D) are not to be phrased as such - rather, the semiquavers are to be phrased together in such a way as to stand apart from the D that follows.

Without the phrase marking, the 'default' assumption would be that the semiquavers are merely passing/grace notes leading to the D, which would render them less significant than if they were played as marked, in a (short) phrase of their own.

That said, I find it curious that this is only marked on the first line and not in the otherwise identical pattern that follows on the second - I'd have expected to see a simile instruction or similar*.

*No pun intended

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Yes, I also found it odd that the second time does not have similar construction. It might have been a typo. –  American Luke Feb 24 '12 at 14:04
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I agree with slim and Widor that this is a phrase mark. However, it is possible to play both legato and staccato at the same time. Legato means "tied together", and as Widor says you want these notes to be "phrased together"; those concepts are obviously closely related and, depending on the interpretation, may be considered one and the same. I'd disagree with Wikipedia — legato doesn't strictly mean that the notes need to be played with no intervening silence, though that is the natural interpretation in its most common usage. Try playing staccato notes smoothly; it's quite a fun exercise.

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It seems to me that a pair of notes cannot be both legato and staccato at the same time.

The only explanation that makes sense to me is that these are not slurs but phrase marks.

Per Wikipedia:

The slur is not to be confused with two other similar musical symbols. The tie is a curved line that links two notes of the same pitch to show that their durations are to be added together. The phrase mark is a curved line that extends over a passage which is visually indistinguishable from the slur, and indicates that the passage is to be interpreted as a single phrase.

So you should phrase such that the two staccato notes feel like a phrase on their own, rather than being part of a phrase including the preceding or following notes.

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Yes. Legato is a matter of performance, and staccato is a matter of note articulation. To me, in terms of a guitar, this means I would play short notes, but I would hammer-on to the second note to obey the legato marking.

I'm not sure exactly how this translates to brass, but I imagine a single tonguing, or maybe two distinct tonguings with no gap between the notes.

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This doesn't solve the mystery for me. From your WP links: Legato - "in transitioning from note to note, there should be no intervening silence. "; Staccato - "a note of shortened duration, separated from the note that may follow by silence". They seem to be mutually exclusive. –  slim Feb 24 '12 at 11:01
    
I got to thinking later that they were something other than legato markings, but it was bedtime. –  cornbread ninja Feb 24 '12 at 14:47
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