What is the proper or usual term that names the following problem in piano playing?

Problem: The finger, after striking a note, does not release the key on time but overstays (typically by about 50 to 100 milliseconds). As a result, the note sounds longer than it should and bleeds into the beginning portion of the next note.

The person in the video calls it "finger pedaling." But he is referring to it as a technique, something you do on purpose, for an effect:

I am talking about overlaps that happen unintentionally (because you are being sloppy), a problem.

(I am finding that my generic descriptions, e.g. "unintended overlaps," are no proper search terms and don't turn up anything useful. Once I know the term, I may come back here and ask substantive questions, e.g. how to solve.)

Add later: Just so I don't mislead, I should add that the unintended overlaps happen to me even when I am not being sloppy but on the contrary am trying my best not to have them, especially when going from finger 4 to 3.

  • I guess I'd call it muddy. Commented Jul 3, 2022 at 2:10

4 Answers 4


Overlap between notes is simply an extreme form of articulation - the legatissimo. For obvious reasons, this is possible only on the piano and related instruments, but it's a valid stylistic choice.

Doing it unintended, by sloppiness rather than on purpose, is an error, but I wouldn't expect this specific playing error to have a specific name, any more than unintended staccato or unintended portato does.


You've answered your own question. When it's unintentional, it's just called sloppy playing. There's no "official" term for it. I've heard it called "lazy fingers", "delayed release", "blurry" playing, and no doubt there are a whole raft of other terms people have come up with.

  • That's bad news for me. I tried your terms, and "blurry" returns vision problem after piano practice, and "delayed" keys that get stuck. If you have any idea on how one may do searches and find helpful material I would appreciate hearing about it.
    – poppycat
    Commented Jul 2, 2022 at 5:28
  • 5
    @poppycat It sounds like what you really want to know is how to fix the problem of not fully releasing a key after it's been played. Why don't you just ask that question?
    – Aaron
    Commented Jul 2, 2022 at 5:55
  • I will, and am formulating the question in my head. Thanks for the encouragement.
    – poppycat
    Commented Jul 4, 2022 at 12:43

I don't know if what you are explaining is necessarily a problem as much as it may be a style. I used to play organ in a church with a four second delay. No matter how crisp I tried to play, the sound of the organ would, you could actually hear it, roll down the length of the building, hit the wall and tumble backward over itself.

Some pianists will play a fast scale but instead of keeping it crisp will pedal it. I personally don't like it because as an organist we don't have sustain pedals but it is a style. It could be that instead of thinking that your playing is sloppy, maybe your brain desires a more reverberant sound and instructs your fingers to make it so.

  • Thanks for your charitable thought. But I actually want to play crisp (at least the "conscious" part of me does). I even like recordings that don't reverberate, e.g. Budapest String Quartet, James Brown. But it was very kind of you to think I was actually pursuing a style.
    – poppycat
    Commented Jul 4, 2022 at 11:04
  • Often it is not that we lack talent or need more practice or exercises but it is moving improperly which holds us back. We either use the wrong muscles, are not using the correct ones or are combining them. I would suggest contacting Edna Golandsky in NYC and find out if she has a teacher near you who can assess your playing and can suggest adjustments to free you up and minimize muscular co-contractions if they exist. Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 17:26

Musical terms describe a kind of execution and there is really no difference between "described" and "prescribed". So you typically need to add a descriptor for the lack of consistency in execution.

You can add a qualifier to the intended articulation, most likely "leggiero" and call it "inconsistent leggiero" or use other attributes on "leggiero", like "unconvincing", "intermittent", "botched".

Another possibility is to intentionally use a non-formal term. Instead of "legato" you can try "slurred" or "slurry". This is reminiscent of the musical term of the notation element "slur" without suggesting its intentional implementation as "legato" phrasing.

"legato articulation" sounds deliberate, "slurred articulation" doesn't.

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