I'm engraving an orchestral score, using Musescore. The following two bars, in the oboe part, don't look "right" in terms of engraving aesthetics:

Portato with phrase marks example 2

Another example, this time in the flute part:

Portato with phrase marks example

I think the problem is that the portato marks are not vertically aligned and it's visually quite jarring, especially since the notes are stationary.

It may be, however, technically correct, since phrase marks should normally almost touch note heads at their end-points, leaving not enough room for a portato mark which then has to be placed outside.

BTW those are phrase marks, not slurs.

Before I go ahead and try make things prettier, I'd love to know if there is a generally accepted approach to engraving this correctly?

  • 5
    I uh...totally didn't read this as "potato marks" Commented May 25, 2021 at 17:30

2 Answers 2


The best approach it to place the articulation marks close to the notes and raise (or lower) the phrase marks to "connect" the articulations.

phrase marks adjusted to accommodate portato

Alternatively, you can place the phrase marks opposite from the articulation marks, by the note stems.

phrase marks opposite portato

  • Yes, this is it, this looks really good. Thank you :-) Commented May 25, 2021 at 20:14

Instead of using the portato symbol, you could place both staccato dots and tenuto line on each note.
Looks much nicer, and you won't have to adjust any of the spacing: music fragment with both staccato and tenuto

  • The rightmost staccatos being under the top staff line and the tenutos being above it looks slightly unnerving to me.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 12:15
  • Fair enough, but I find huge gap between the note head and the proper portato symbol irksome. Commented May 25, 2021 at 12:54
  • Thank you for the tip, really appreciate it, I'm going with &Aaron's answer because the real portato mark just looks a bit cleaner. Commented May 25, 2021 at 20:16
  • @MichalCihelka I agree, the real portato symbol does look better than simply combining the staccato and tenuto symbols. But I still don't like the spacing between the notehead and the symbol. Overall I'm not really a fan of either result. Commented May 26, 2021 at 6:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.